The Savannah Philharmonic Orchestra's 2014-15 season will open Sept. 13 with works by composers Brahms, Rachmaninoff and DvorÃ k.
Brahms' "Academic Festival Overture," Rachmaninoff's "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini" and DvorÃ k's "Symphony No. 7" will be presented. A pre-concert talk sponsored by the Savannah Friends of Music will be given by co-concertmaster Brent Price.
While this opening concert was sold out as of Sept. 9, there is a possibility some seats could still be available the night of the show. However, if you don't want to wait at the box office, tickets are still available for "Berlioz, Bizet and Sibelius," set for Oct. 17 at the Lucas.
"Though the 'New World Symphony' is undoubtedly his most famous composition, for me, DvorÃ k's 'Symphony No. 7' is the most beautiful," says Peter Shannon, the Philharmonic's artistic director and conductor.
"Brahms' 'Academic Festival Overture' is a wonderfully energetic and majestic way to begin what will surely be a fantastic sixth season," he says. "The 'secret weapon' of this concert, however, will be the solo pianist, Fan-Ya Lin. If I told you anything more, it wouldn't be a secret."
Lin is the winner of the 2013 American ProtÃ©gÃ© International String and Piano Competition. Born in Taipei, Taiwan, she began her musical studies at age 4.
The top prize winner in several piano competitions, Lin has received such awards as the 2011 National Concert Hall Rising Stars award, the 2013 Best Performance Award from American ProtÃ©gÃ©, and is the special award recipient of the 2013 International Russian Music Piano Competition.
Lin will perform Rachmaninoff's "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini."
"On a personal level, it is the stories that came up during practice that makes this piece special for me," Lin says. "I picture the secret lovers dance across the ballroom floor in Variation 12 and how I construct all the colors and surprises in Variation 15.
"I remember my teacher telling me her magical story of performing this piece in Germany at an outdoor venue," she says. "During the dark and gloomy Variation 17, the sky turned grey and started to rain, yet all of a sudden when Variation 18 began, the light started peeking through the clouds and it was sunny again, which matches the music perfectly."
Shannon describes Lin as "an amazing pianist."
"I met her at a piano competition a couple of years ago and I and the other judges were absolutely, completely wowed," he says.
"It didn't take much persuasion on my part to get her to come down to Savannah," Shannon says. "She's been doing a lot of high-profile performances and she's going to a great pianist."
Lin is a consummate pianist, Shannon says.
"You're not going to hear a better pianist around, even in New York," he says. "You may hear someone as good, but not better."
DvorÃ k's melodies are beautiful and romantic, Shannon says.
"People are going to enjoy them," he says. "Rachmaninoff's variations is one of the most virtuosic pieces for piano and orchestra," Shannon says. "It is very difficult."
Opening with Brahms is "a lively, fun beginning to the season," Shannon says.
"People may not know the DvorÃ k, but they will love it," he says. "And Fan-Ya Lin is going to take people's breath away.
"There are so many wonderful musicians out there, so many wonderful pianists, it's hard to find someone who stands out. She is one who stands out."
The concert will be full of beauty and energy, Shannon says.
"It's going to be a great opening night and a good solid program for the orchestra," he says. "It will be a crowd pleaser for sure."
The orchestra's fifth season was a rousing success.
"With many orchestras across the country facing financial challenges, I'm proud that the Savannah Philharmonic has experienced consistent growth over the last five years posting annual surpluses," says executive director David Pratt. "Savannah can really take pride in its hometown orchestra and chorus.
"At the end of our fifth year, we are reflecting on what we have built from the ground up, and are pleased with what we have achieved," he says. "This is, by far, the fastest growing cultural organization in Savannah and a boon for the city's economic development efforts."
Shannon says the orchestra is getting stronger every season and he enjoys watching that progress.
"They have a lot of involvement from me in rehearsals and a lot of pressure from me, but in a concert, I enjoy the stepping back and I do it very conscientiously," he says. "There's a huge amount of trust involved.
"I can do this only if I know the players and know what they can do. They realize they are being allowed to create.
"In a concert, I get to relax a bit more," Shannon says. "The work is done and I look forward to hearing it myself."