National Philharmonic Rings In New Year As Leonard Bernstein Centennial Celebration Continues

The National Philharmonic rings in the new year-and continues its celebration of the great Leonard Bernstein's Centennial-with two of Bernstein's favorite composers in "Infamous Brahms" Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019 at 3 p.m. at The Music Center at Strathmore's Concert Hall. International pianist Haochen Zhang, who won the gold medal for the 2009 Van Cliburn Competition at the age of 19, will join Philharmonic Music Director and Conductor Piotr Gajewski in performing Johannes Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5 in E minor.

Both Zhang and Gajewski are former child prodigies. Zhang has captivated audiences in the United States, Europe, and Asia with a unique combination of deep musical sensitivity, fearless imagination, and spectacular virtuosity. During the weekend's concerts, The National Philharmonic will also celebrate Maestro Gajewski's 60th birthday. There will be a pre-concert lecture on Saturday, from 6:45-7:15 p.m., and Sunday, from 1:45-2:15 p.m. Ticket prices are $34-$88 and are free for young people age 7-17. Strathmore is located at 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda. For more information or to purchase tickets, or call 301.581.5100.

Bernstein (1918-1990), was an American conductor, composer, and pianist, most famous for his film and Broadway compositions. Playing piano from age 10, Bernstein received musical training at Harvard University, the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, and the Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood. In 1943, he was appointed assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic, and led the orchestra from 1945-1947, later serving as musical director from 1958-1969 and touring internationally with the orchestra. Among numerous other works, Bernstein is the musical genius behind iconic scores including West Side Story, On the Waterfront, and concert performances celebrating the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Zhang first performed Bach's two-part inventions at the Shanghai Music Hall at just five years old, becoming the youngest and first Chinese competitor to win the gold medal at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in 2009. In 2017, Zhang received the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant, which recognizes talented musicians with the potential for a major career in music. He has appeared with many of the world's leading festivals and orchestras, including the Easter Festival in Moscow, among others. Highlights of Zhang's 2018-2019 season include his debut with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, an Asian tour with the Philadelphia Orchestra, and performances with The National Philharmonic, Hong Kong Philharmonic, San Angelo Symphony, and China Philharmonic, in addition to recitals in Berlin, Paris, Madrid, Lucerne, and Brussels, among others. In recent seasons, Zhang recorded a recital CD, released by BIS Records in 2017, which includes works by Schumann, Brahms, Janacek, and Liszt. He gave extensive recital and concerto tours in China, Hong Kong, and Japan. In October 2017, Zhang gave a concerto performance at Carnegie Hall with the NCPA Orchestra, which was followed by his recital debut at Carnegie's Zankel Hall.

Zhang has performed with a myriad of orchestras, including the Philadelphia Orchestra, Munich Philharmonic, London Symphony, Israel Philharmonic, Sydney Symphony, Japan Philharmonic, Singapore Symphony, Warsaw Philharmonic, and Taiwan Philharmonic. In recital, he has performed at Spivey Hall, Celebrity Series of Boston, Krannert Center, and the Wolf Trap Discovery Series, among others. Zhang is also an avid chamber musician, collaborating with colleagues such as the Shanghai Quartet, Tokyo Quartet, and Brentano Quartet. He is frequently invited by chamber music festivals in the United States, including the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival and La Jolla Summerfest. Zhang is a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. He studies periodically with Andreas Haefliger in Vienna. Zhang was previously trained at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music and the Shenzhen Arts School, where he was admitted in 2001 at 11 years old.

Brahms (1833-1897) is one of the greatest German composers and pianists of the Romantic era, producing symphonies, choral compositions, chamber music, and more than 200 songs. Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, Op. 15, is one of the composer's most ambitious orchestral works, and one of the earliest that he ever attempted in the orchestral genre. The Piano Concerto is a work of surprising maturity and emotional depth-the kind that one associates with psychological and artistic refinement. At approximately 45-50 minutes in performance, Brahms' Piano Concerto remains one of the longest works in this genre. In 1962, Bernstein conducted what would became one of the most controversial concerts in the history of the New York Philharmonic with this piece. Bernstein took the unusual step of making a disclaimer from the podium by calling attention to the unorthodox interpretation of Brahms' Piano Concerto by the soloist for the evening, pianist Glenn Gould. Bernstein later said of the performance, "I have only once before in my life had to submit to a soloist's wholly new and incompatible concept and that was the last time I accompanied Mr. Gould." The concert was a landmark in the history of the New York Philharmonic, of Gould's career, and of Bernstein's conducting.

Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) is considered to be one of the greatest Russian composers of his time, and his most famous work, the Nutcracker Suite, is perhaps one of the most recognized seasonal works. His Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64, is hailed as a highly emotional piece. In one of his notebooks, Tchaikovsky sketched an outline for the first movement in which he commented that it contained "a complete resignation before fate, which is the same as the inscrutable predestination of fate." As with many of Tchaikovsky's private remarks, it is difficult to pinpoint to what extent he embodied such feelings in the work, but there is no doubt that an emotional aura recalling this motto pervades Symphony No. 5. The emotional intensity of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5 elicited a memorable performance by Bernstein in New York in 1988. Reviewing that performance, The New York Times critic John Rockwell noted: "The very point of this music is that it is breast-beating Romanticism, and nobody beats breasts better than Mr. Bernstein. The music sounded soulful, weepy and impassioned by turns, and the ovation at the end was more than justified."

In 1983, Maestro Gajewski was selected from more than 150 applicants as a Leonard Bernstein Conducting Fellow at the Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood, along with only two other young conductors. Maestro Gajewski had the opportunity at 24 to spend the summer studying alongside the world's most famed conductors, including Bernstein who, himself, had studied at Tanglewood decades earlier under the prominent conductor Serge Koussevitzky.

"Tanglewood provided many unforgettable experiences, but none more poignant than a program where each of the three Fellows conducted a work on the first half and Bernstein conducted the second half," reminisced Maestro Gajewski. "The venue was the legendary outdoor Tanglewood Music Shed (now Koussevitzky Music Shed), packed to its 5,000-seat capacity, with thousands more sitting on the lawn. For this 24-year-old, it was quite an evening," he said.

Maestro Gajewski is one of a select group of American conductors equally at home in nearly all musical genres. He is the music director and conductor of The National Philharmonic at the Music Center at Strathmore, and a sought-after guest conductor. He was a student and disciple of the late Leonard Bernstein, and is described by The Washington Post as an "immensely talented and insightful conductor, whose standards, taste and sensitivity are impeccable." With one foot in the United States and the other in Europe, as Principal Guest Conductor of the Silesian Philharmonic (Katowice, Poland) and frequent guest at other orchestras, the jet-set maestro's seemingly limitless repertoire, most conducted without a score, amazes critics and audiences alike.

Led by Maestro Gajewski, The National Philharmonic is known for performances that are "powerful," "impeccable," and "thrilling" (The Washington Post). In July 2003, the National Chamber Orchestra and Masterworks Chorus merged to create The National Philharmonic, an ensemble with more than 50 years of combined history, bringing high caliber musical performances to the Washington area. The National Philharmonic took up residence at the state-of-the-art Music Center at Strathmore upon its opening in February 2005. Now, more than 250 performances later, and with far-reaching educational programming, The National Philharmonic is the largest and most active professional orchestra based in Montgomery County.

The National Philharmonic boasts a long-standing tradition of reasonably priced tickets and free admission to all young people age 7-17, assuring its place as an accessible and enriching component in Montgomery County and the greater Washington, D.C., area.

As the Music Center at Strathmore's orchestra-in-residence, The National Philharmonic showcases world-renowned guest artists in time-honored symphonic masterpieces conducted by Maestro Gajewski and monumental choral masterworks under National Philharmonic Chorale Artistic Director Stan Engebretson.

To purchase tickets for the performances and for information about the Philharmonic's 2018-19 season, please visit or call the Strathmore Ticket Office at 301.581.5100. Tickets are $34-$88; young people 7-17 are free through the ALL KIDS, ALL FREE, ALL THE TIME program. ALL KIDS tickets must be purchased in person or by phone. Complimentary parking is available.

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