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Returning Virtuoso Charlie Albright Uncovers the Jazzy Side of Beethoven, plus California Symphony Celebrates Bernstein’s 100th
Source: California Symphony

The California Symphony begins its 32nd season and its sixth under the baton of Music Director Donato Cabrera with BEETHOVEN & BERNSTEIN at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek on Sunday September 23rd at 4pm.  The 2018-19 season opener honors the music and legacy of legendary American composer, conductor, pianist, teacher, writer and celebrity Leonard Bernstein, and features a return visit by star pianist Charlie Albright performing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3. Music by local composer Gabriela Lena Frank rounds out a high-energy concert to start the new season.
In selecting the music for this program, Music Director Donato Cabrera explains that the works not only celebrate Bernstein the composer, but the impact he had on what it means to program a concert as an American Music Director.
Cabrera says: “I can’t think of a more joyous curtain-raiser than his Overture to Candide.  And what celebration of Bernstein’s music would be complete without a performance of Symphonic Dances from West Side Story! This suite is basically the 'greatest hits’ from this ever-popular musical.”
The inclusion on the program of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3, performed by Charlie Albright, is a nod to Bernstein’s prowess as a pianist and communicator.  According to Cabrera: “Charlie Albright’s charismatic approach to music making, paired with one of the most dramatic piano concertos ever written, is a perfect way to remember Bernstein, the pianist.”
A multi-award-winning musician and the recipient of the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant in 2014, Charlie Albright made his California Symphony debut in the jazz-themed American Roots concert in 2016, when he brought the house down with his performance of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, and his Great Balls of Fire encore.

"The entire audience stood and applauded until Albright returned for an encore of pianistic wildfire, and then for a second encore – Great Balls of Fire… Albright dispatched this with even more fire, and with glissandos that zippered up and down the keyboard." —

Albright says: “I’m absolutely thrilled to be returning to Walnut Creek, playing again with the amazing California Symphony, and working with my good friend and phenomenal artist Maestro Donato Cabrera. Last time when we performed Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, we were able to take a ton of liberties and incorporate jazzy influences throughout the piece.  In the Beethoven, we will be able to do the same, but in a much different way.  From the dialogue between the orchestra and the piano to the intense emotions that Beethoven aimed to incorporate, there is a lot of room for putting your own ‘stamp’ on things.”
He continues: “One thing I enjoy doing—especially in this piece—is to completely improvise a large cadenza, which was actually pretty commonplace long ago.  The neat thing is that I never know how it’ll come out until the concert!”

 “Many pianists possess great technique; many retain a broad repertoire. Charlie Albright has something extra: the propensity to make concerts riveting, fun and exhilarating. His unique way of communing with the music merges his intentions with the composer’s, bringing freshness of vision and unique expressive ability to his performances.”—The Boston Music Intelligencer

Cabrera is equally thrilled to resume the partnership with Albright: “Charlie brings an enthusiasm to making music that is infectious and unique.  He lives in the moment, whether it's at the piano or in conversation and, for me, that’s the most inspired and inspirational way to live!  I’m looking forward to his interpretation of the Beethoven concerto because I think his personality will be a perfect fit.”
Three Latin-American Dances for Orchestra by Berkeley-born composer and Northern California resident, Gabriela Lena Frank, rounds out the program. Dances begins with an unmistakable homage to Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, before developing South American rhythms and themes which draw from her Peruvian mother’s heritage and the composer’s Latin American travels and studies.
Says Cabrera: “Bernstein, as Music Director of the New York Philharmonic, was known as a great interpreter and proponent for music by living composers.  Performing Gabriela Lena Frank’s Three Latin-American Dances is a way of keeping Bernstein’s mission alive and well.”

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