Houston Symphony Broadcasts

Picker, Paganini, And The Piano

James Gaffigan conducts music by a former composer-in-residence, as well as two Russian masters!

Tobias Picker
Composer Tobias Picker

On the next Houston Symphony Broadcast, we feature another stellar performance by pianist Daniil Trifonov, this time with Rachmaninoff and his spin on a famous tune by Paganini. James Gaffigan conducts!

In 1985, Tobias Picker became the first ever composer-in-residence for the Houston Symphony. Fittingly, 1986 was the 150th anniversary of Texas’ independence from Mexico, so Picker was commissioned to compose a work for the occasion. The first work on this program, Old and Lost Rivers, was inspired by the bayous created by the wandering path of the Trinity River, just east of Houston.

Following that, Daniil Trifonov takes his spot at the piano for Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. This theme comes from what is easily Niccolo Paganini’s most famous work, the Caprice No. 24 in A minor for solo violin. The original work is itself a theme and variations, and Rachmaninoff expands upon that model with the piano and orchestra in this virtuosic masterwork.

The concert ends with a triumphant symphonic return by Dmitri Shostakovich. After falling out of favor with the Soviet government over the “chaotic, nonsensical sounds” in Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, Shostakovich composed the Symphony No. 5 in D minor as a means to get back into the ruling party’s favor. It worked tremendously, and the symphony was given an enthusiastically positive reception after its premiere, remaining as one of the composer’s most popular works for orchestra.

Tune in for this concert Sunday (2/26) on News 88.7 or Wednesday (3/1) on Houston Public Media Classical at 8 PM.

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