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Alexander Ghindin will join Rogue Valley Symphony to perform Franz Liszt's 'Totentanz' and Sergei Rachmaninoff's 'Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.' Photo courtesy of RVS

Alexander Ghindin joins RVS for Liszt, Rachmaninoff

Powerhouse pianist Alexander Ghindin joins the Rogue Valley Symphony, under the direction of Martin Majkut, to perform symphonic pieces for solo piano and orchestra: German composer Franz Liszt’s "Totentanz" and Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff’s "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini."

Ghindin — named Honored Artist of Russia — was the youngest laureate to ever win the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. In 1999, he earned a second prize at the International Queen Elisabeth Piano Competition in Brussels. In 2007, he was a first-prize winner at the International Piano Competition in Cleveland.

The Plain Dealer — Ohio's largest newspaper — called Ghindin “a dynamic artist who also wraps his heart around lyrical phrases. Put another way, he has the power and speed of a virtuoso, plus the perception and poise needed to explore the inner workings of a score.”

Ghindin entered the Moscow Conservatory in 1994 at age 17, and he has established himself as a pianist of great distinction. He has performed numerous concerts in his native Russia, as well as with top orchestras in Europe, the U.S. and Japan. Ghindin now serves as the artistic director of the Svetlanov Hall of the Moscow International Performing Arts Center.

Concerts are set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 11, in the Music Recital Hall, 405 S. Mountain Ave., on the Southern Oregon University campus in Ashland; 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 12, at the Craterian Theater, 23 S. Central Ave, Medford; and 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 13, in the Performing Arts Center, 830 N.E. Ninth St., Grants Pass. Tickets are $36-$55 for the Ashland show; $15-$48 for the Medford show; and $15-$37 for the Grants Pass show. Student tickets are $10. Tickets can be purchased online at rvsymphony.org or by calling 541-708-6400. Tickets for the Medford concert also can be purchased at craterian.org or by calling 541-779-3000.

Majkut will present a pre-concert talk one hour before each performance.

The orchestra will play two other works by Liszt and Rachmaninoff, "Mazeppa" and "The Isle of the Dead," respectively.

Liszt's symphonic poem is a piece inspired by the legend of Ivan Mazeppa, who was born in Lithuania in 1639. He was of noble birth, and as the legend goes, he had a love affair with a Polish princess who was married to a much older man. When the husband discovered the affair, he had Mazeppa stripped of his clothes, tied to a horse and set free to run in the wilderness. The horse ended up in Ukraine. Mazeppa survived the ordeal and was found by Cossacks, who eventually made him their Hetman, the person of highest military rank in the country.

Liszt wrote 13 such pieces. Although just legend, it inspired many Romantic era writers, painters and musicians. Lord Byron, Alexander Pushkin and Victor Hugo wrote poems about it, Liszt and Tchaikovsky wrote music based on it, and there are many paintings inspired by it.

Music director Majkut wanted to pair Rachmaninoff and Liszt together because they both were piano virtuosos first and then became successful composers for orchestra.

“It’s always interesting to see how pianists transfer their virtuosity to orchestral writing. Not just in terms of technical virtuosity, but also in colors or variation in instruments,” he says.

Majkut’s plans also include presenting lesser-known works by these two recognizable composers, particularly the beautiful Rachmaninoff "Rhapsody."

When Rachmaninoff wrote his "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini" in 1934, his career as a composer was in decline — at least in the eyes of audiences and critics. Since leaving Russia for the West, he had written little, and his 1926 Fourth Piano Concerto had flopped. Romanticism was out of fashion, and modernism held all the cards. Then, in the post-war neoclassicism of composers such as Igor Stravinsky and Sergei Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff saw new possibilities. "The Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini" is his take on this aesthetic — or at least his way of using a classical theme.

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