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North Carolina Symphony Launches 80th Anniversary Season Tonight, 9/13

North Carolina Symphony Music Director Grant Llewellyn launches the orchestra's 2012/13 classical season with a thrilling concert program featuring a display of piano virtuosity from renowned guest soloist Gabriela Montero.

The performances, titled "Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody," take place tonight, Sept. 13 in Lee Auditorium in Southern Pines and on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 14-15 in downtown Raleigh's Meymandi Concert Hall at the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts. All three concerts begin at 8:00 p.m.

Pianist Gabriela Montero, along with cellist Yo-Yo Ma, violinist Itzhak Perlman and clarinetist Anthony McGill, performed on the steps of the Capitol for President Barack Obama's inauguration in 2009. She has since won a quickly expanding audience and devoted following around the world.

"She's an extraordinary keyboard artist," says Llewellyn. "She's made a name for herself with her amazing improvised encores, which we hope to see her do here. She'll perform Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, which everyone will love, but obviously her second work, Gershwin's Variations on "I Got Rhythm," is right down her street and will get the season off to a rousing start."

The program also includes an early work by Haydn, his Symphony No. 6, "Le Matin," or "The Morning." The Symphony's classical season will close in May with Haydn's Symphony No. 6, "Le Soir" ("The Evening"), and concertgoers hear Symphony No. 7, "Le Midi" ("Noon") in November.

"This is a particular project of mine," Llewellyn says. "These early Haydn symphonies are the perfect forerunners of the symphony as we have come to know it. They are extended works-quite long and substantial-and span the bridge between the Baroque concerto grosso, which highlight individual soloists, and the fully fledged symphonies of later Haydn, and then Mozart and Beethoven. In addition, 'Le Matin,' 'Le Midi' and 'Le Soir,' starting from the morning, then going to the day and evening, have a wonderful sort of arch."

The program concludes with Ravel's incredible orchestral tableau, Suite No. 2 from Daphnis et Chloé. Llewellyn calls it "perhaps one of the greatest ballets that orchestral musicians ever get to play."

In addition to a stellar performance, North Carolina Symphony concertgoers can enjoy pre-concert talks and "Meet the Artists," which features interactive conversations with guest artists and select orchestra members, before many Symphony events. For "Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody," Josiah Stevenson will host "Meet the Artists" in the Pinecrest High School band room in Southern Pines, Thursday, Sept. 13, beginning at 7:00 p.m. WUNC's Catharine Brand will host "Meet the Artists" in Meymandi Concert Hall's Swalin Lobby in Raleigh, Friday, Sept. 14, at 6:30 p.m. NCSU professor Randolph Foy will present a pre-concert talk in the Swalin Lobby, Saturday, Sept. 15, at 7:00 p.m.

Regular tickets to the Raleigh Classical Series performance of "Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody," Friday and Saturday, Sept. 14-15, range from $18 to $70, with $40 tickets for seniors. Regular tickets to the Southern Pines Series performance on Thursday, Sept. 13 range from $18 to $60. Students can receive $15 tickets in both venues.

To purchase tickets, visit the North Carolina Symphony website at www.ncsymphony.org or call the Symphony Box Office at 919.733.2750 or toll free 877.627.6724.

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