Stage and opera director Sam Helfrich will help the PSO stage, yes, with costumes, sets. orchestra in the pit and all that, Handel's Messiah as you've never experienced it before. Helfrich staged Pittsburgh Opera's 2009 Eugene Onegin and has worked with Opera Boston, Glimmerglass and other opera companies.
German conductor Christoph König gives his first impressions on working with the PSO, and talks about Prokofiev's string writing, the art of improvisation, his work with orchestras in Luxembourg and Porto, his recordings, and early life in the opera house and growing up in the former East Germany.
Pianist and improviser extraordinaire Gabriela Montero returns to Heinz Hall in Prokofiev's Piano Concerto #3 with guest conductor Christoph König. She talks about the challenges of Prokofiev's music, the art of improvisation, and her own first concerto, titled "Ex Patria," written as a reaction against the leadership of Hugo Chavez in her native Venezuela. Gabriela also talks about meeting and then concertizing with her boyfriend, a singer.
Sir James Galway talks about Mozart's Flute Concerto #2, and why Mozart disliked the flute. He also talks about the little-known creator of the Fantasie Brillante on Themes from Bizet's Carmen. Sir James reminisces about his concerts with the PSO including a memorable visit to Moscow with Lorin Maazel, and talks about the writing of his memoir, The Man with the Golden Flute: Sir James, a Celtic Minstrel.
22-year-old Chinese violinist Xiang Yu makes his PSO debut in Prokofiev's Violin Concerto #2. He talks about Prokofiev, winning the 2010 Menuhin competition, and his journey from Inner Mongolia to Beijing to Boston, where he studies with Donald Weilerstein. Xiang Yu mentions his extramusical activities, such as swimming, and coaches Jim Cunningham in some basic Mandarin phrases.
In a busy downtown restaurant, Pittsburgh Symphony Pops music director Marvin Hamlisch talks with Jim Cunningham about his travels to Africa and Europe, how he's winning his personal "battle of the bulge," highlights of the 2011-2012 PSO Pops season, the new sound system in Heinz Hall, special Gershwin-related surprises this season, and the need for subscriptions to keep the pops going.
Viennese pianist joins the PSO on opening night in Gershwin's Piano Concerto in F, just two weeks after the orchestra played two concerts at the Grafenegg Festival in Austria, where Buchbinder is the founding director. Buchbinder talks about his esteem for the Gershwin concerto, the concept behind the Grafenegg Festival, his many Beethoven recordings, and his passion for movies, art, and his 540-horsepower Maybach luxury sedan.
The Pittsburgh Symphony's new Concertmaster, 27 year old Noah Bendix-Balgley, is a laureate of the 2009 Queen Elizabeth of Belgium Competition and winner of other prizes. He talks about his background, which includes leading a string quartet in Germany and serving as a guest concertmaster across Europe. He also reveals a family tie to the PSO.
Mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung, who has recorded Mahler's Symphony No. 3 with four different orchestras including the PSO, returns in Mahler's Kindertotenlieder on the 100th anniversary of the composer's death. She talks about the challenges and joys of singing this deeply emotional song cycle.
Composer Joan Tower talks about her world-premiere piece, titled "Stroke," which was commissioned by the PSO. She describes how she incorporated a heartbeat and sequence of instrumental solos into music inspired by the stroke that left her brother half-paralyzed. She also comments on her uncommon fanfares, and some activities beyond her tenure as Pittsburgh Symphony Composer of the Yea.