This weekend Winnipeg audiences have the opportunity to experience something really special. On Saturday, May 11th at 7:30pm our Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra will be joined by the fantastic American pianist Claire Huangci in a program featuring the piano concertos of Gershwin and Ravel. Then on Sunday afternoon at 2:30pm at the WAG-Qaumajuq,  Huangci will be performing a solo recital as part of Virtuosi’s 2023-24 concert season. The concert on Sunday is called Romantic Fantasy, and will feature Huangci in a solo recital consisting of the music of Beethoven, Chopin, Earl Wild, and Samuel Barber amongst others.

Gershwin and Ravel with the WSO

The Winnipeg premiere performance with Huangci has been a long time coming, but good things come to those who wait. She was scheduled to be in Winnipeg performing with the WSO in 2021, and the booking for that concert happened in 2019. The concert was cancelled and then postponed due to the pandemic., but finally she will be here this weekend. Huangci is very excited about performing under Maestro Daniel Raiskin as well. “Maestro Daniel Raiskin is a name I have known for such a long time…I’ve wanted to work with him…I’ve heard incredible things. [about him] Actually it was also Maestro Raiskin’s idea to put these two pieces together, so I’m really looking forward to this,” says Huangci

The piano concertos of Gershwin and Ravel that she will be performing with the WSO make a perfect pair. Both are inspired by jazz, and both are written right around the same time period, by two composers who knew each other and respected each other’s music.  As Huangci states, “For Ravel, in the G major concerto one hears these harmonies and the rhythm in the first and the last movement… there is absolutely jazz influences…and in the Gershwin he has a little bit of impressionistic sound sometimes as well. I don’t know if they are taking inspiration from one another but I think this respect was so mutual that they maybe admired the same kinds of sounds. It makes a lot of sense to pair the both of them together.”

The pairing of Gershwin and Ravel’s music, will be the central focus of this weekend’s concert. Aside from paring Gershwin and Ravel’s piano concertos, the WSO will be performing Gershwin’s An American In Paris, and Ravel’s Bolero.

This is going to be a fantastic concert infused the sounds and musical colors of 1920’s Paris.

For more details visit the WSO’s website.

Virtuosi: Romantic Fantasy

Then on Sunday at 2:30pm at the WAG-Qaumajuq, Huangci will be performing a solo recital consisting of music of Mendelssohn, Beethoven, Chopin, Earl Wild and Barber.

“It’s really nice to be able to play a recital after a concerto evening performance. In a way you are able to present a concerto in a huge hall, and then a recital in a more intimate one…It’s quite a gift I would say,” states Huangci.

Huangci was the winner of the very prestigious 2018 Concours Geza Anda  that is held every three years in Zurich, Switzerland. The focus of the competition  is music written by composers from the German baroque, classical and romantic traditions. It’s for this reason that her performance of Mendelssohn’s Fantasie op. 26, Beethoven’s Sonata no 14 in C sharp minor (Moonlight) and Chopin’s Fantasie-Impromptu op.66 , are sure to be spellbinding. Huangci travelled to Germany to study at the Hochshule for Musik in Hannover in order to absorb this music in depth, and it was this intense study that helped her win the Concours Geza Anda.

There are two big virtuosic compositions that will make up the back half of the Romantic Fantasy program; Earl Wild’s Seven Virtuoso Studies based on Gershwin Songs and Samuel Barber’s fiendishly difficult Sonata in E flat minor. When talking about The Earl Wold pieces Huangci says, “I think Earl Wild’s genius in putting together these songs was his ability to capture the essence of the voice…there is so many extra notes on the piano, and we are trying to suggest this lilt, this up and down of human coloratura and that’s very, very difficult to do on the instrument…it’s absolutely fantastic what he does.”

In regards to the Barber, Huangci says she is very excited to perform it, in particular the final movement fugue. “ The last movement is the movement I have heard the most during my study time...and feared. It’s a piece that is truly up there in level of difficulty. It’s a piece that is very, very difficult to memorize, and yet you need to have it In your fingers otherwise you can’t play it in a relaxed enough manner.” The whole Sonata is a pyro-technic show piece for the pianist, and Huangci is surely up to the task.

She recently recorded both the Earl Wild and the Barber. The CD is not yet out, so this is your opportunity to get a preview of these works before the release date of the disc.

Virtuosi’s Romantic Fantasy concert on Sunday afternoon at 2:30 at the WAG-Qaumajuq is going to be a concert that will stay with audience members for a long, long time. Marvelous music performed by an international piano superstar; this concert is going to be really very special.

For more details on Virtuosi’s Romantic Fantasy Concert with Claire Huangci visit their website.