What a wonderful way to end the season.
The Savannah Philharmonic Orchestra will present "Season Finale: Rachmaninoff & DvoÅôÃ¡k" on April 29 at the Johnny Mercer Theatre. Pianist Fanya Lin will perform Rachmaninoff's "Third Piano Concerto" and the evening will conclude with DvoÅôÃ¡k's "Symphony No. 8."
"Though 'The New World' is clearly DvoÅôÃ¡k's best known symphony, both 7 and 8 are my personal favorites," says Savannah Philharmonic artistic director and conductor Peter Shannon. "The 8th, which we will play in this concert, has one of the most moving slow movements of any symphony.
"The drama and thrill of the outer movements will see the Philharmonic in flying form. I'm excited to be a part of this.
"Rachmaninoff's '3rd Piano Concerto' is nothing short of epic," Shannon says. "Pianist Fanya Lin had me speechless when I first heard her play, and it's hard to silence an Irishman."
Born in Taiwan, Lin began studying piano when she was just 4. She has won such prestigious piano competitions as the Seattle International, the New York International and the Beethoven Club International.
In addition to the Savannah Philharmonic, Lin has performed with the Utah Symphony, Coeur d'Alene Symphony Orchestra, Grand Junction Symphony Orchestra and Aurora Symphony Orchestra. Lin graduated from the Juilliard School with a master's degree and is currently a doctoral student at the University of Minnesota.
Shannon first heard Lin perform when he judged a piano competition in Shreveport, La.
"She was absolutely breathtaking," he says. "I sat there in absolute awe.
"She's such an interesting musician to watch. You can really feel the music when you watch her play.
"She's a very visceral, very physical player, even though she's knee-high to a grasshopper," Shannon says. "She's small and diminutive in stature and a giant musically."
The audience will be "absolutely blown away" by Lin's playing, he says.
"When she gets behind the piano, magic happens," Shannon says. "Savannah doesn't know what is going to hit them âÄ¦ She's got all the aces in the deck. I relish this when I can see somebody shine.
"She is music personified and I am amazed at her talent and energy," he says. "I can guarantee you this, she will have the audience on their feet with shouts of 'bravo' the second she stops playing. I can't think of a better way to end the season."
More than 600 students from Savannah area schools will attend a rehearsal the day before the concert as part of the Philharmonic's Orchestra Lab Masterclass program. The students have received study materials in advance, and some of the Philharmonic's musicians have visited area schools.
Work on the finale has been ongoing.
"I've spent a lot of time with this music in the last couple of months," Shannon says. "The Rachmaninoff I started learning in November.
"It's such a massive piece, but it's been worth every moment," he says. "It's 45 minutes of just absolutely incredible virtuosity, a monster for the pianist. Technically, it's up there with the most difficult things for any pianist to play."
The second half of the concert will be equally impressive.
"The DvoÅôÃ¡k symphony we play after the break is a wonderful, wonderful piece of music. There is a moment of real repose right at the beginning with a moment of intense beauty for strings.
"After that, it's straight into the frying pan," Shannon says. "It's a great repertoire for the orchestra, who are very exciting to watch on stage, and the perfect finale."
The DvoÅôÃ¡k piece has special meaning for Shannon.
"Twenty years ago this July, I conducted with the Radio Symphony Orchestra Warsaw in a concert in Germany," he says. "That was a very, very important thing for me to do as a young conductor.
"I would have been 26 or 27. For a conductor in his late 20s to conduct a world-renowned orchestra is pretty amazing.
"I remember the amount of work I put into learning this piece," Shannon says. "It has a special place in my heart and I've conducted it many times since then."
For Shannon, the end of the season comes with a lot of pride in seeing how the members of the orchestra have grown. He sees the musicians almost as surrogate children.
"This is my 10th year conducting in Savannah," Shannon says. "In building up to the 10th season, it's nice to be able to see what we've accomplished. They are extended family to me.
"This last concert is a culminating experience in all of that," he says. "This is going to be extra special."
IF YOU GO
What: Savannah Philharmonic Orchestra presents "Season Finale: Rachmaninoff & DvoÅôÃ¡k"
When: 7:30 p.m. April 29
Where: Johnny Mercer Theater, Savannah Civic Center, 301 W. Oglethorpe Ave.
Cost: $16 to $75