Houston Symphony to Present 'Best of Brahms' to Kick Off Season

Houston Symphony to Present 'Best of Brahms' to Kick Off Season

Beginning on September 14, the Houston Symphony will dedicate the first 3 weeks of the 2012-2013 Classical Season to the Best of Brahms. The 3 weekends of the Best of Brahms, which include 5 different concert programs, will take an in-depth look at many of Brahms’ works including his four Symphonies, two Piano Concertos, the Double Concerto for Violin and Cello, the German Requiem and many other beloved and blissful works. The compositions of Johannes Brahms are especially meaningful to Houston Symphony Music Director Hans Graf.

“At the age of 16, the very first score I bought with my pocket money was a pocket score of Brahms Symphony No. 4,” said Graf. “As I studied this masterpiece, my juvenile love of Brahms began to grow and has endured throughout my life. Even knowing his music for decades, Brahms still holds the power to surprise us, with something new to discover around every turn of phrase.”

A German composer who lived during the mid-nineteenth century, Johannes Brahms is respected as one of the greatest masters of musical form and a pioneer of the Romantic musical time period. Like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Brahms had an uncanny ability to achieve structural integrity in his music, while at the same time allowing the notes to passionately dance off the page with an expressive romanticism. This delicate balance allows Brahms’ music to connect with audiences on a deeper level and even inspired 20th century composer Arnold Schoenberg to credit Brahms with “great innovation in musical language.”

Contributing to the Houston Symphony’s Best of Brahms concerts will be pianists Jonathan Biss and longtime Graf friend, Garrick Ohlsson. Houston Symphony Concertmaster Frank Huang and Principal Cellist Brinton Averil Smith will also be featured in the captivating Concerto for Violin and Cello. Maestro Hans Graf will conduct the first two Best of Brahms weekends, while Finnish guest conductor John Storgårds, another noted interpreter of Brahms, will conduct the final weekend.

Houston Symphony Classical Series
Jones Hall
615 Louisiana St.
Houston, TX 77002

Friday, September 14, 2012, 8:00pm
Saturday, September 15, 2012, 8:00pm
Sunday, September 16, 2012, 2:30pm
Best of Brahms – Weekend 1
Hans Graf, conductor
Garrick Ohlsson, piano
Frank Huang, violin
Brinton Averil Smith, cello

Program A – September 14, 16, 2012
Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 1
Brahms: Symphony No. 1

Program B – September 15, 2012
Brahms: Variations on a Theme of Haydn
Brahms: Concerto for Violin and Cello
Brahms: Symphony No. 4

Thursday, September 20, 2012, 8:00pm
Saturday, September 22, 2012, 8:00pm
Sunday, September 23, 2012, 2:30pm
Best of Brahms – Weekend 2
Hans Graf, conductor
Joshua Hopkins, baritone
Houston Symphony Chorus
Charles Hausmann, director
Frank Huang, violin
Brinton Averil Smith, cello

Program C – September 20, 22, 2012
Brahms: Tragic Overture
Brahms: Nänie
Brahms: Requiem

Program B – September 23, 2012
Brahms: Variations on a Theme of Haydn
Brahms: Concerto for Violin and Cello
Brahms: Symphony No. 4

Friday, September 28, 2012, 8:00pm
Saturday, September 29, 2012, 8:00pm
Sunday, September 30, 2012, 2:30pm
Best of Brahms – Weekend 3
John Storgards, conductor
Jonathan Biss, piano

Program D – September 28, 30, 2012
Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 2
Brahms: Symphony No. 3

Program E – September 29, 2012
Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 2
Brahms: Symphony No. 2

Tickets from: $25

About Hans Graf, conductor
Known for his wide range of repertoire and creative programming, distinguished Austrian conductor Hans Graf is the Houston Symphony’s 15th Music Director and will stand as its longest serving music director when his tenure closes in May 2013. As one of today's most highly respected musicians, he is a frequent guest with all of the major North American orchestras, and regularly conducts in the foremost concert halls of Europe, Japan and Australia.

Graf has appeared with the Vienna Philharmonic, Vienna Symphony, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, as well as with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, Deutsches Symphony Orchestra, Bavarian Radio Orchestra and the Rotterdam Philharmonic. He was awarded the Decoration of Honour in Gold for Services to the Republic of Austria in 2007 and France’s Chevalier de l’ordre de la Legion d’Honneur in 2002. Maestro Graf and his wife, Margarita, have homes in Salzburg and Houston.

About Garrick Ohlsson, piano
Pianist Garrick Ohlsson has established himself as a musician of magisterial interpretive and technical prowess. Though long regarded as one of the world’s leading exponents of Frédéric Chopin, Ohlsson commands an enormous repertoire ranging over the entire piano literature, and is noted for his masterly performances of the works of Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert, as well as the Romantic repertoire. His concerto repertoire alone ranges from Haydn and Mozart to works of the 21st century. To date, he has at his command more than 80 concertos.

A native of White Plains, New York, Ohlsson began his piano studies at age 8 at the Westchester Conservatory of Music, followed by entering The Juilliard School in New York City at age 13. He has been influenced in completely different ways by a succession of distinguished teachers, most notably Claudio Arrau, Olga Barabini, Tom Lishman, Sascha Gorodnitzki, Rosina Lhévinne and Irma Wolpe. Although he won First Prizes at the 1966 Busoni Competition in Italy and the 1968 Montréal Piano Competition, it was his 1970 triumph with a Gold Medal at the International Chopin Competition in Warsaw that brought him worldwide recognition. He was awarded the Avery Fisher Prize in 1994 and received the 1998 University Musical Society Distinguished Artist Award in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

About Frank Huang, violin
First Prize Winner of the 2003 Walter W. Naumburg Foundation's Violin
Competition and the 2000 Hannover International Violin Competition, Frank
Huang has an established career as a violin virtuoso. At the age of 11, he first performed with the Houston Symphony in a nationally broadcast concert. He has since performed with orchestras throughout the world, including the Cleveland and Genoa orchestras, LA Philharmonic, the Saint-Paul and Amadeus chamber orchestras, Indianapolis Symphony and the NDR-Radio Philharmonic Orchestra of Hannover. He has served as concertmaster of the Houston Symphony since 2010.

Huang is on the faculty at Rice University and the University of Houston, and he also teaches during the summers at the Bowdoin International Music Festival, the Texas Music Festival and the Great Mountains Music Festival in South Korea. Huang performs in a trio with pianist Gilles Vonsattel and cellist Nicolas Altstaedt, and also serves as the concertmaster and leader of the Sejong Soloists, a conductorless chamber orchestra in New York.

About Brinton Averil Smith, cello
Hailed by Newsday for “extraordinary musicianship...forceful, sophisticated and entirely in the spirit of the music”, cellist Brinton Averil Smith has performed throughout the world, receiving widespread acclaim for combining virtuosic technique with musical ideals rooted in the golden age of string playing. Smith is the principal cellist of the Houston Symphony and a faculty member of the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University.

He was previously a member of the New York Philharmonic and the principal cellist of the San Diego and Fort Worth symphonies. His performances have been broadcast throughout the world including, in the U.S., on CBS Sunday Morning and NPR's Performance Today and Symphonycast.

At age 10, Smith was admitted part-time to Arizona State University studying mathematics, music and German, and he completed a B.A. in mathematics at age 17. He received his master’s and doctoral degrees from Juilliard, studying with renowned cellist Zara Nelsova and writing on the playing of Emanuel Feuermann.

About Erin Morley, soprano
Erin Morley is one of today's most promising lyric coloratura sopranos. Her breakthrough performance as Marguerite de Valois in Les Huguenots at Bard SummerScape was hailed by The New York Times as “formidable" and by The Wall Street Journal as “spectacular.”

A 2010 graduate of the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, Morley has sung several roles at the Met, most recently in Robert Lepage's new Ring Cycle, the Woodbird in Siegfried, Woglinde in Götterdämmerung, and Woglinde in Das Rheingold. She completed her Artist Diploma at the Juilliard Opera Center in 2007, where she received the Florence & Paul DeRosa Prize, and earned her Master of Music degree from The Juilliard School and her Bachelor of Music degree from the Eastman School of Music. She won 1st Place in the Licia Albanese – Puccini Foundation Competition in 2006, and 3rd Place in London’s Wigmore Hall International Song Competition in 2009.

About Joshua Hopkins, baritone
Chosen by OPERA NEWS as one of twenty-five artists poised to break out and become a major force in classical music in the coming decade, Canadian baritone Joshua Hopkins has been hailed as “…an outstanding young baritone with a virile, vigorous yet velvety sound and an immediately evident dramatic authority.”

In the 2012-13 season, operatic performances include a return to the Metropolitan Opera as Lord Guglielmo Cecil in a new production by Sir David McVicar of Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda conducted by Maurizio Benini, Count Almaviva in Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro both in the Glyndebourne Opera Festival’s revival of the 2012 Michael Grandage production conducted by Jérémie Rhorer and with the Verbier Festival conducted by Paul McCreesh, Marcello in La bohème with the Houston Grand Opera and Papageno in The Magic Flute with Vancouver Opera.

About John Storgards, conductor
Chief Conductor of the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra and principal guest conductor of BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, John Storgaards is one of Finland’s exceptional artists. He has earned wide recognition as a conductor and violinist for his creative programming and commitment to contemporary music. He also serves as artistic director of the Chamber Orchestra of Lapland. His last appearance with the Houston Symphony was in February 2012 performing Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5.

Internationally, Storgaards has appeared with the Bavarian Radio Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony, Orchestra Philharmonique de Radio France, Netherlands Radio, the BBC Symphony and the Sydney, Melbourne and New Zealand symphonies, as well as all of the major Scandinavian orchestras. He regularly collaborates with soloists like Gil Shaham, Christian Tetzlaff, Frank Peter Zimmermann, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Colin Currie, Håkan Hardenberger and Sabine Meyer.

John Storgaards was concertmaster of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra during Esa-Pekka Salonen’s tenure and subsequently studied conducting with Jorma Panula and Eri Klas. He received the Finnish State Prize for Music in 2002.

About Jonathan Biss, piano
American pianist Jonathan Biss is widely regarded for his artistry, musical intelligence and deeply felt interpretations, winning international recognition for his orchestral, recital, and chamber music performances and for his award-winning recordings. Described by The New Yorker as playing with “unerring sophistication,” Biss made his New York Philharmonic debut in 2001 and since then has appeared with the foremost orchestras of North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia.

Born in 1980, Biss represents the third generation in a family of professional musicians that includes his grandmother Raya Garbousova, one of the first well-known female cellists (for whom Samuel Barber composed his Cello Concerto), and his parents, violinist Miriam Fried and violist/violinist, Paul Biss. Growing up surrounded by music, Biss began his piano studies at age 6, and his first musical collaborations were with his mother and father. He studied at Indiana University with Evelyne Brancart and at The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia with Leon Fleisher. In 2010, Biss was appointed to the piano faculty of The Curtis Institute.

About the Houston Symphony
During the 2012-13 Season, the Houston Symphony will be in its 99th year as one of America’s leading orchestras with a full complement of concert, community, education, touring and recording activities. Under the artistic leadership of Hans Graf, one of the orchestra’s longest serving music directors, the Symphony has established a reputation for innovative, powerful performances. With its Centennial Celebration on the horizon in 2013-14, the Houston Symphony is one of the oldest performing arts organizations in Texas whose inaugural performance was held at The Majestic Theater in downtown Houston on June 21, 1913. Today, with an annual operating budget of $28 million, the full-time ensemble of 87 professional musicians is the largest performing arts organization in Houston, presenting more than 280 concerts for 300,000 people annually. For tickets and more information, please visit www.houstonsymphony.org or call 713-224-7575.