The National Arts Centre Orchestra kicks off the 2011-2012 season in spectacular style with a Russian Festival – featuring Music Director Pinchas Zukerman and Russian artists performing classics of Russian repertoire

The four-concert Russian Festival (September 27-October 6) throws a brilliant spotlight on the drama, power, and passion of some of the most dazzling masterworks of the Russian repertoire. The Russian Festival is a kaleidoscope of lush melodies, fabulous orchestration, and dramatic emotional expression. All concerts are conducted by Music Director Pinchas Zukerman and performed by the National Arts Centre Orchestra, which will have an expanded string section for the Festival. Pinchas Zukerman is also the violin soloist for the Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky concert on September 30.

The concerts on Tuesday September 27, Friday September 30, Wednesday October 5, and Thursday October 6 take place at 8 p.m. in Southam Hall of the National Arts Centre. The evenings each feature a 7 p.m. pre-concert chat by Le Droit’s Jean-Jacques Van Vlasselaer, CBC’s Paul Kennedy, or writer-broadcaster Eric Friesen. Tickets for the Russian Festival concerts are selling briskly; the opening concert is almost sold out, and limited seating is available for the other three concerts.

The Ottawa Citizen is the Media Partner of the National Arts Centre Orchestra for the Russian Festival.

This is the fifth year in a row that the National Arts Centre Orchestra inaugurates the season with a spectacular themed festival devoted to the music of particular composers or from a particular country. The Russian Festival is an homage to the Russian Piano School of the late 19th/early 20th century, which emphasized virtuoso performance technique and stressed individuality and artistic expression. The concerts feature superbly talented Russian piano soloists, all of whom are major prize winners and each of whom was personally selected by Pinchas Zukerman. These incredible artists are Kirill Gerstein (September 27), Behzod Abduraimov (September 30), Olga Kern (October 5), and Georgy Tchaidze (October 6).

Repertoire to be performed at the Festival includes classics of the 19th and 20th centuries, including Tchaikovsky’s perennially popular Piano Concerto No. 1, Rachmaninoff’s achingly romantic Piano Concerto No.2, Prokofiev’s crisp and vital Piano Concerto No. 3, and the witty Piano Concerto No. 1 by Shostakovich. Of special interest (on October 5) is the film score Alexander Nevsky, composed by Sergei Prokofiev for Sergei Eisenstein’s 1938 historical drama. A masterpiece for chorus and orchestra, Alexander Nevsky will be sung in Russian, featuring acclaimed mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung.

Here is a complete list of the concerts being performed as part of the Russian Festival:

September 27
TCHAIKOVSKY’S PIANO CONCERTO (part of the Bostonian Bravo Series)

Pinchas Zukerman conducts and Kirill Gerstein is the piano soloist. Repertoire includes Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 (with an unforgettable opening and a thrilling finale, and soaring melodies throughout) and Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2

  • Only the second time in its history that NACO performs Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2
    • Russian-born pianist Kirill Gerstein, 32, is renowned for masterful technique, musical curiosity, and probing interpretations. Gerstein received the 2010 Gilmore Artist Award, which is presented to an exceptional pianist who possesses broad and profound musicianship and charisma and who can sustain a career as a major international concert artist

September 30
PROKOFIEV AND TCHAIKOVSKY (part of the Bostonian Bravo Series)

Pinchas Zukerman conducts and is featured on violin, and Behzod Abduraimov is the piano soloist. Repertoire includes Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise, Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3, and Tchaikovsky’s breathtaking Symphony No. 4

  • 21-year-old Behzod Abduraimov makes his NACO debut
  • Behzod Abduraimov was born in Tashkent in 1990. He began to play the piano at age five and made his debut as a soloist at age eight. At age 18, Abduraimov won the 2009 London International Piano Competition, winning first prize following an electrifying performance of Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 3

October 5
ALEXANDER NEVSKY (part of the Ovation Series)

Pinchas Zukerman conductor, Olga Kern, piano. Repertoire includes Tchaikovsky’s Overture to the Romeo and Juliet Fantasy, Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 1, and Prokofiev’s 1938 film score, Alexander Nevsky

  • Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 1 features stunning solo piano work by Olga Kern and a trumpet solo by NACO’s Karen Donnelly
    • Moscow-born Olga Kern’s career began with her gold-medal performance at the Eleventh Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in 2001. With her vivid stage presence, passionately confident musicianship and extraordinary technique, she is truly captivating
    • Alexander Nevsky will be sung in Russian. Mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung is one of the most exciting artists of her generation, appearing with many of the world's leading orchestras, in the world’s finest opera houses, and in recital worldwide

October 6
ROMANTIC RACHMANINOFF (part of the Ovation Series)

Pinchas Zukerman conductor, Georgy Tchaidze, piano. Repertoire includes Shostakovich’s Symphony No.1 as well as the sweeping melodies and lush orchestration of Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto.

  • Georgy Tchaidze – making his NACO debut -- auditioned for Pinchas Zukerman in person. First Laureate of Canada’s Honens International Piano Competition (2009), Georgy Tchaidze is a native of St Petersburg, Russia. His Honens win allowed him to bring his artistry beyond Russia for performances throughout Europe and North America

Tickets are available at the NAC Box Office (in person) and through Ticketmaster (with surcharges) at 613-755-1111; Ticketmaster may also be accessed through the NAC’s website Subject to availability, full-time students (aged 13-29) with valid Live Rush™ membership (free registration at may buy up to 2 tickets per performance at the discount price of $12 per ticket. Tickets are available online ( or at the NAC box office from 10 a.m. on the day before the performance until 6 p.m. on the day of the show or 2 hours before a matinee. Groups of 10 or more save 15% to 20% off regular ticket prices to all NAC Music, Theatre and Dance performances; to reserve your seats, call 613-947-7000, ext. 634 or e-mail

Discover the new NACmusicbox TIMELINE: 200 orchestral works, 80 Canadian compositions, 1 interactive TIMELINE that provides a visual representation of our rare online archival collection and encourages the exploration of music connections. The NACmusicbox TIMELINE has been specifically designed to showcase the works of Canadian composers within the history of orchestral music and offers cross-curricular content with classroom-ready activities and lesson plans developed by teachers for teachers. Visit today.

The National Arts Centre gratefully acknowledges the financial investment by the Department of Canadian Heritage in the creation of this online presentation for the Virtual Museum of Canada.

We also thank our partner CBC Radio 2 for generously providing broadcast-quality recordings of the NAC Orchestra’s archival performances.

For additional information, visit the NAC website at

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Gerald Morris
Communications Officer, NAC Music
613-947-7000, ext. 335
[email] gmorris@nac-cna.cac

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