Peoria Symphony ready to open 116th season

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Olga Kern

International champion Olga Kern will be at the piano Saturday when the Peoria Symphony Orchestra opens its 116th season at the Peoria Civic Center Theater.

The concert, titled "Power and Passion," begins at 8 p.m., following a pre-concert lecture at 7 p.m. A reception follows the concert.

Kern, gold medalist in the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, is recognized as one of her generation's greatest pianists. She will perform the virtuosic Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini by Rachmaninoff.

"With her vivid stage presence, passionately confident musicianship and extraordinary technique, the striking Russian pianist continues to captivate fans and critics alike," the PSO said in a news release.

Orchesta music director and conductor George Stelluto said, "This opening concert is a celebration of all the riches an orchestra has to offer, from the powerful and sublime to the tender and intimate. Get ready for an extraordinary experience."

Tickets for Passion and Power start at $36 for adults and are only $11 for students. For information call the PSO Box Office, (309) 671-1096 or go to

Season tickets for the eight concert season also are on sale as well as a flexible Compose Your Own four-concert package. First- time subscribers may take advantage of the opportunity to buy the season at a 50% discount. More information about ticket packages can be found on the website.

Saturday's concert will open with a popular legend, a ghostly ship the Flying Dutchman and its damned captain and crew looking for one great love to lift his curse. Composer Richard Wagner captures the scene perfectly in the Flying Dutchman Overture.

Kern will then take the stage for Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, a well-known piece that audience members may recognize from the movie Somewhere in Time.

"Olga is not only a passionate and powerful artist, she is also able to bring out the intimate and

tender side of Rachmaninoff," Stelluto said.

The second half of the concert features Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun and Richard Strauss' Death and Transfiguration.

According to her biography Kern was born into a family of musicians with direct links to Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff and began studying piano at the age of 5. Winner of the first Rachmaninoff International Piano Competition when she was 17, she is a laureate of eleven international competitions and has toured throughout her native Russia, Europe, and the United States, as well as in Japan, South Africa, and South Korea.

"I am so looking forward to Olga's first visit to Peoria. She connects with audiences in a very special way that is both sensitive and powerful," Stelluto said.

PSO Executive Director Susan Hoffman said the orchestra's 2013-14 season will be exciting and innovative.

"It is a season that appeals to both the connoisseur and the newcomer. Audiences will hear works by many great composers performed by great soloists and the musicians of the PSO. We have concerts for adults, children and the entire family including two Sunday matinees. If you have not been to a PSO concert before, we are inviting you to find a concert that appeals to you and come see us this season," Hoffman said.

About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).