Press Release: Lean, mean, frenzied — Omaha Symphony performs Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances

Program also includes Brahms’ majestic First Piano Concerto, Rózsa’s Waltz from Madame Bovary

OMAHA, Neb., March 26, 2019- Rachmaninoff at his leanest and meanest headlines a program of “dance” music in Rachmaninoff’ Symphonic Dances, Friday and Saturday, April 5 & 6, 7:30 p.m., at the Holland Performing Arts Center.

Conducted by Music Director Thomas Wilkins, the program will include Rachmaninoff’s frenzied, biting, and fantastic Symphonic Dances, as well as film composer Miklós Rózsa’s grand waltz from the 1949 film Madame Bovary. Brahms’ majestic and powerful Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor will round out the concert, featuring virtuoso Markus Groh, returning to the Omaha Symphony for his second appearance.

Rachmaninoff’s last work, his Symphonic Danceswas first written as a ballet score in 1940, but was never performed as such. The composer was inspired by Russian choreographer Mikhail Fokine, who had created a ballet for Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. In contrast to the lush harmonies and sweeping melodic lines that formerly characterized Rachmaninoff’s style, Symphonic Dancesoffers a more modern sound of leaner textures, sharper harmonies, and more concise melodic motifs. As the composer died of melanoma in 1943, it is interesting to muse whether Rachmaninoff would have pursued this new direction in his music if fate had granted him more time. As a Russian émigré, and naturalized U.S. citizen in 1943, Symphonic Dancesis also the only piece of Rachmaninoff’s to be composed entirely in the U.S.

Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor was an arduous undertaking for the composer, who had the first seeds of its inception when he was only 20 years old after hearing Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. He at once began sketching a symphony in the same key (D Minor) and turbulent spirit as Beethoven’s masterpiece. However, Brahms lacked the mastery of orchestration to complete it, so the project of his youthful passion and ambition was abandoned. He reduced the work for two pianos, but was still unsatisfied, eventually destroying the score. After several more starts and stops, he completed the work four years later, only to have it met with polite disdain on its first two outings. But history has been kinder, and Brahms’ First Piano Concerto is now considered one of his greatest works. Opening with a dramatic timpani roll and concluding with a vigorous “dance-like” principal theme, the work’s tremendous energy and flow of melody make the 45-minute piece memorable.

Consistently cited for his “sound imagination” and astonishing power, Markus Groh has established his place among the finest pianists in the world today. Groh recently debuted with the National Symphony in Washington D.C. performing Brahms’ First Piano Concerto, and the Cleveland Orchestra, and has appeared with the symphony orchestras of Baltimore, Colorado, Detroit, Florida, Indianapolis, Kansas City, New York, and many more. The Cleveland Plain Dealercalled him a “complete virtuoso,” while the Berlin Morgenpostsays he plays “just as God and Brahms instruct him.” Groh is also acclaimed for his interpretation of Liszt. He is the founder and artistic director of the Bebersee Festival near Berlin. This is Groh’s second appearance with the Omaha Symphony, having performed Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with the orchestra in 2016 under the baton of Stephen White.

Tickets to Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances start at $19. They can be purchased by visitingwww.omahasymphony.orgor by calling Ticket Omaha at 402.345.0606. Student Rush tickets are available one hour prior to the concert. Any student with a valid student ID may purchase up to two Student Rush tickets for $10 each.

The Omaha Symphony MasterWorks series is sponsored by Omaha Steaks.

The Omaha Symphony is a non-profit organization that presents more than 100 live orchestral performances from September through June. In addition to MasterWorks, Symphony Pops, Symphony Rocks, Movies, Symphony Joslyn, and Family series concerts, the Omaha Symphony’s nationally recognized education and community engagement programs touch the lives of more than 40,000 people each year. For tickets or information regarding the Omaha Symphony, call 402-345-0606 or visit


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