News Release

Grammy-nominated piano sensation Yuja Wang performs Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini with the National Arts Centre Orchestra under conductor Thomas Dausgaard in Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody, the season’s fifth Ovation Series concerts on May 25-26

May 12, 2011

The fifth Ovation Series concerts of the NAC’s 2010-2011 season, Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody, feature conductor Thomas Dausgaard, Grammy-nominated piano sensation Yuja Wang performing Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Symphony

No. 1 by Jean Sibelius, and the hugely enjoyable A Freak in Burbank by Swedish composer Albert Schnelzer. The concerts are at 8 p.m. in Southam Hall on May 25 and 26, 2011.

The program for the evening includes:
ALBERT SCHNELZER            A Freak in Burbank (2007)
RACHMANINOV                  Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43
SIBELIUS                          Symphony No. 1 in E minor, Op. 39

PRE-CONCERT CHAT (in English) by writer-broadcaster Eric Friesen
“Sibelius: Moody Patriot, Romantic Modernist”

Inspired by both 18th century composer Joseph Haydn and idiosyncratic filmmaker Tim Burton (the “freak” of the title, who grew up in Burbank), Albert Schnelzer’s A Freak in Burbank (2007) has been described as an enjoyable, rollicking romp with an exceptional flair for orchestral virtuosity. The Financial Times (London) noted that “the restlessly busy, witty, lightly-scored music lives in an imaginative world of its own” and The Telegraph (London) wrote “Like one of Burton’s films, the whole thing passed smoothly like a brightly coloured and skillfully made phantasmagoria.” Critics have commented that, telescoping as many ideas into its nine minutes as some composers might stretch out for a full symphony, it combines ear-friendliness with the adrenalin-busting energy of a fairground ride. Albert Schnelzer (born 1972) is a Swedish composer. As a youth, he was a keyboard player in a rock band, later studying at the Malmö Academy of Music. He also studied music at the Royal College of Music in the U.K. In 1998, Schnelzer won the ‘Composer of Tomorrow’ competition with his orchestral work Erupto. He joined the Society of Swedish Composers in 2001 and became better known internationally with his piano trio Predatory Dances (2004).


The Friends of the NAC Orchestra host a silent auction in the main foyer on May 25. Bid on outstanding items from across Canada and around the world before the concert, during intermission, and for 20 minutes following the performance. Proceeds benefit music education programs for young people.

Jean Sibelius’s Symphony No. 1 in E minor, Op. 39 was written in 1898, when Sibelius was 33. This joyful, masterfully crafted symphony showcases Sibelius’s fierce Finnish national pride. The work was first performed in 1899, conducted by the composer, in an original version which has not survived. After the premiere, Sibelius made some revisions, resulting in the version still in the repertoire today. MusicWeb International classical writer Rob Barnett writes, “ … but equally impressive are the structural aspects. This is genuinely symphonic music, argued in a traditional manner, strengthening an already gripping narrative … it combines fighting talk, homespun nostalgia, and flag-waving. Sibelius’s tonal palette is already unique -- he is one of those very few with such an unmistakable ‘fingerprint.’”

Grammy-nominated piano sensation Yuja Wang tackles the lush, romantic Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini by Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943). Composed in 1934, it is playful, melancholy, military, and dramatic, the twenty-four violin variations brilliant not only individually, but as part of a unified artistic whole. Sergei Rachmaninoff found vicarious creative excitement in the explosive personality of violin virtuoso Nicolò Paganini (1782-1840), one of the most vivid, highly publicized, and widely imitated musician-composers of the 19th century. Paganini dazzled audiences with superhuman technique and showmanship, and he scandalized them with a voracious appetite for women and gambling. Observers astonished by his talent accused Paganini of having supernatural powers gained through a Faustian pact with the Devil. The theatricality, exuberance and charm of Paganini’s music is evident in the 24 Caprices for Solo Violin, Opus 1. Begun when Paganini was still a teenager, these pieces are each ornamented with astonishing technical tricks.

Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini is less about the theme of Paganini’s music than about the myth of Paganini as Romantic virtuoso. As a renowned virtuoso himself, Rachmaninoff was drawn to the image of Paganini, particularly the rumors of his demonic character and connections. This explains why Rachmaninoff chose to juxtapose Paganini’s theme with prominent quotations from the familiar Dies irae theme of the Catholic Requiem Mass, traditionally associated with death and supernatural forces. In the Rhapsody, Rachmaninoff joined his long-admired gift for soaring, soulful melody with fresh structural ingenuity. Adapted from notes by Harlow Robinson


Twenty-four year old Chinese pianist Yuja Wang is recognized for playing that combines the fearless imagination of youth with the discipline and precision of a mature artist. Yuja has been praised for her authority over the most complex technical demands of the repertoire, the depth of her musical insight, as well as her fresh interpretations and graceful, charismatic stage presence. Yuja has already performed with many of the world’s leading orchestras, including the Boston, Chicago and San Francisco symphonies, the New York Philharmonic, Tonhalle Orchestra, China Philharmonic, London Philharmonic and the NHK Symphony in Tokyo. She has given recitals in major cities throughout North America and abroad, makes regular appearances at festivals, and is a dedicated performer of chamber music. In 2005 she made her debut with the NAC Orchestra performing Beethoven's Fourth Concerto, and her most recent appearance was in 2007. Yuja is an exclusive recording artist for Deutsche Grammophon. Yuja studied with Gary Graffman at The Curtis Institute of Music. She received the Gilmore Young Artist Award in 2006 and the Avery Fisher Career Grant in 2010.

Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody will be performed in Southam Hall of the National Arts Centre on Wednesday May 25 and Thursday May 26, 2011 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20.45, $31.21, $42.51, $53.81, $64.57, $75.33, and $94.17, for adults and $11.38, $16.76, $22.41, $28.06, $33.44, $38.82, and $48.24 for students (upon presentation of a valid student ID card). Tickets are available at the NAC Box Office (in person) and through Ticketmaster (with surcharges) at 1-888-991-2787; 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

Our latest web offering -- coming soon -- NACmusicbox TIMELINE 200 orchestral works, 80 Canadian compositions, 1 interactive TIMELINE. Explore unlimited music connections and discover Canada's contribution to orchestral history. The interactive TIMELINE includes the addition of 65 Canadian works thanks to financial investment by the Virtual Museum of Canada at the Department of Canadian Heritage. We also acknowledge our partner CBC Radio 2 for 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