Pianist Jie Chen will perform with the Rogue Valley Symphony for its opening concert. - Rogue Valley Symphony

Opening with a bang

The Rogue Valley Symphony will open its 40th season of concerts next weekend. Pianist Jie Chen will take the stage with the orchestra at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 5, at Southern Oregon University's Music Recital Hall. Chen will perform Johannes Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, Opus 83.

Celebrating the opening of its 40th anniversary season, the symphony also will perform Mozart's Overture to the Marriage of Figaro, and Manuel de Falla's The Three-Cornered Hat, Suites I & II.

Born in Guang Dong, China, Chen began playing the piano at age four and was accepted into the Shanghai Conservatory at age eight. She was 21 when she won the Silver Medal at the Villa-Lobos International Piano Competition in 2006.

She also was awarded Curtis Institute's Festorazzi Prize for Best Pianist of the Year, and most recently, first prize at the Young Concert Artists International Auditions. She has performed in concerts and broadcasts internationally, making her major orchestral debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra in 2001. She has played with the Vienna Chamber Orchestra, and with orchestras in France, Italy, Spain, Poland, Israel, and Brazil, as well as in Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center.

A graduate of the Curtis Institute, Chen is continuing her studies with Jerome Rose at the Mannes College of Music in New York. Brahms himself played the solo part of his Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major at the premiere of his work in Budapest on Nov. 9, 1881. The piece was met with immediate approval and within several months Brahms performed it to enthusiastic audiences in a dozen European cities. The four-movement concerto was of greater scope than any concerto written to that day and is a masterwork as grand as each of the composer's four symphonies.

The orchestral overture to Mozart's opera, The Marriage of Figaro, premiered in Vienna on May 1, 1786. Based on a stage comedy by Pierre Beaumarchais, Figaro became one of Mozart's most successful works. While the opera is the epitome of Italian 18th-century comic opera, the overture stands alone as a favorite orchestral concert piece. Also on the program is El Sombrero de Tres Picos (The Three-Cornered Hat), by Spanish classical composer Manuel de Falla. Influenced by folk dances such as flamenco, Falla's music has a colorful national character, evoking the spirit of his native Spain through soulful melodies, modern harmonies, and brilliant dance rhythms. Originally a ballet for orchestra and voice, The Three-Cornered Hat was produced by Serge Diaghilev with set design by Pablo Picasso. Falla completed the two concert suites for orchestra in 1921.

The orchestra's October concert series will continue at 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 6, at the Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater, 23 S. Central Avenue, Medford, and will conclude with a performance at 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 7, at the Grants Pass High School Performing Arts Center, 830 N.E. Ninth St., Grants Pass.

First time subscribers to the symphony's season can still take advantage of a 50 percent discount when purchasing tickets for all five series concerts from October through April.

Seating for all concerts is reserved. Tickets are $23-$40, and $5 for students.

See www.rvsymphony.org, or call 552-6398.

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