Photo courtesy Colin Way

Make this Valentine’s a classic with some Romantic Rachmaninoff

By Jill Girgulis, February 8 2018 —

Valentine’s Day is coming up and you may still be looking for that special plan. If so, we have a suggestion — why not enjoy a classical music performance?  

The Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra (CPO) is performing two shows on Feb. 16 and 17, titled Romantic Rachmaninoff, conducted by CPO music director laureate Hans Graf and featuring Italian pianist Luca Buratto. These concerts will open with Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto, followed by Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony.

Buratto, a resident of Milan, is in Calgary to perform the piano concerto for both shows. He previously shared the stage with the CPO back in 2015 during the finals of the Honens International Piano Competition, which he went on to win.

“Somehow the environment is slightly different when you’re in a competition,” Buratto says. “So it will be very nice to be back in a normal concert setting.”

While he’s made his career as a soloist, Buratto speaks about the joys of playing alongside an orchestra.

“It’s appealing because the pieces are more symphonic. You can look for more dialogue in a large scale than chamber music, which I really like,” he smiles. “And of course, it’s all made in a very fast way, which also makes you prepare in a different way than a solo performance.”

Musicians like Buratto and the members of the CPO have a tight timeline when preparing for each week’s performances, which audience members might not be aware of when they hear the finished product in person.

“[For the Romantic Rachmaninoff shows] there will be one rehearsal and a dress rehearsal and that’s all,” Buratto says.

For many university students, a classical music concert is not the first thing that comes to mind when planning a night out, but according to Buratto, this doesn’t have to be the case.

“I think we have to accept the fact that classical music is somehow complex,” he explains. “But at the same time, there must be a sort of exposure, because if you wanna love something, you need to know about it or you need to be exposed.”

Part of this exposure involves hearing about the music’s backstory. The concerto Buratto is performing comes with its own storied history.

“This particular piece was the first one that Rachmaninoff wrote after a long time of crises, where his first symphony was a disaster, basically,” Buratto says. “You can really feel like this was a human being that was suffering and didn’t know what to do with his life — putting all his effort into this composition and it was worth it.”

He also mentions the desire audiences have to connect with the artists themselves, not just the compositions.

“If it has to be only about the music, you can just stay at home and have the wonderful recording with the best pianist or the best orchestra,” Buratto says. “So I think the audience wants more of a personal connection.”

On that note, Buratto himself will be available in the lobby at intermission to speak with audience members. Those who arrive early can catch the CPO’s pre-concert chat at 7:05 p.m., with the concert beginning at 8 p.m. Assistant principal bassoonist Michael Hope will interview the evening’s conductor, Graf, who is also celebrating a recent win at the Grammys for Best Opera Recording.

Tickets for this week’s and future concerts are available at calgaryphil.com. Tickets start at $20 for both the Feb. 16 and 17 performances.

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