RELEASE: Critically Acclaimed Pianist Gabriela Martinez Makes Debut with the Omaha Symphony

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Martinez Joins the Omaha Symphony for a performance of Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini

Maestro Ankush Kumar Bahl leads Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique

Living American composer Michael Daugherty’s “Red Cape Tango” to appear on program

OMAHA, Neb., Feb. 23, 2022—Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Martinez and Music Director Ankush Kumar Bahl join the musicians of the Omaha Symphony for a performance of works that are united in their themes of fantasy and mythology, both shared and personal. Praised by the New York Times for offering “elegant, incisive performance,” Martinez makes her Omaha debut with Rachmaninoff’s fiery stunner and a cornerstone of 20th century repertoire, Variations on a Theme of Paganini. Also appearing on the program is living American composer Michael Daugherty’s “Red Cape Tango” from Metropolis Symphony and Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique.

"It is always exciting to bring world-class talent to Omaha’s equally world-class Holland Center,” said Bahl. “I’m thrilled to welcome pianist Gabriela Martinez to join the orchestra for the very first time in one of the most beloved and virtuosic features for both piano and orchestra. To begin the concert, we are featuring a work from a living composer that the audiences in Omaha have heard and loved in "Red Cape Tango" by Michael Dougherty. Finally, we are presenting Hector Berlioz's magical and iconic Symphonie Fantastique on our second half. This is truly a piece that can be best experienced live and in the concert hall with your phenomenal Omaha Symphony.

Performances will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, March 11-12 at the Holland Performing Arts Center Peter Kiewit Concert Hall. Tickets are on sale now at

Performance Details:

Friday-Saturday, March 11-12 at 7:30 p.m.
Holland Performing Arts Center Peter Kiewit Concert Hall

Ankush Kumar Bahl, conductor
Gabriela Martinez, piano

MICHAEL DAUGHERTY: “Red Cape Tango” from Metropolis Symphony

RACHMANINOFF: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini

BERLIOZ: Symphonie Fantastique

Composers Michael Daugherty, Sergei Rachmaninoff, & Hector Berlioz

Cedar Rapids, Iowa-native Michael Daugherty was born to a musical family in 1954 – his father was a dance band drummer and each of his siblings would also later become professional musicians. A renowned living American composer and six-time Grammy Award-winner, Daugherty currently teaches composition at the University of Michigan. His work Lift Up Thine Ears for Orchestra, which was commissioned to celebrate the Omaha Symphony’s 100th anniversary and the final concert of Music Director Laureate Thomas Wilkins’ 16-year tenure, was premiered in Omaha in June 2021. His “Red Cape Tango” is inspired by Superman Man of Steel [DC9] [DM10] and uses the often-repeated Medieval chant, Dies Irae – a familiar refrain that can also be heard in Rachmaninoff’s Variations on a Theme of Paganini and Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique.

Sergei Rachmaninoff was not only the prototypical 20th-century Russian composer – a tall, gaunt figure with a dark demeanor – but he was also known widely as a virtuosic pianist in his own right. In fact, he premiered each of his four piano concerti himself, written across the span of his career between the years of 1901 and 1926. For his Variations on a Theme of Paganini, Rachmaninoff took from Paganini’s Caprice No. 24 for solo violin. Rachmaninoff was not alone in his particular interest in Paganini; fact, the 19th century virtuoso who was often referred to as “the Devil’s Violinist” inspired works by Schumann, Liszt, Brahms and many others.

In 1830, Hector Berlioz became quite a name in Paris, though one would be hard-pressed to choose which adjective would best describe him: “famous” or “notorious.” His hallucinatory Symphonie Fantastique put him on the musical map, but his obsessive courtship (today it would be called “stalking”) of English actress Harriet Smithson only added to the conception that he had perhaps had one puff too many of the opium ingested by the hero of his quasi-autobiographical symphony. Cast in five movements, Symphonie Fantastique celebrated the wedding of an explicit storyline with symphonic form. The chilling fever dream of a work ends with a “March to the Scaffold” and a “Dream of the Witches’ Sabbath,” and finally, the Medieval Dies irae theme returns in a mockery of the Catholic church.

About Gabriela Martinez

Versatile, daring and insightful, Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Martinez is establishing a reputation on both the national and international stages for the lyricism of her playing, her compelling interpretations, and her elegant stage presence.

Since making her orchestral debut at age seven, Ms. Martinez has played with such distinguished orchestras as the San Francisco, Chicago, Houston, New Jersey, Tucson, West Michigan, Pacific and Fort Wort symphonies; Germany’s Stuttgarter Philharmoniker, MDR Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra, Nurnberger Philharmoniker; Canada’s Victoria Symphony Orchestra; the Costa Rica National Symphony and the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra in Venezuela. Recent season highlights include debut appearances with the Buffalo, Boulder, Dayton and National philharmonic orchestras and the Jacksonville, Delaware, Akron, La Crosse, Modesto, Rogue Valley, Springfield (MO), Topeka and Wichita symphony orchestras.

She has performed with Gustavo Dudamel, James Gaffigan, James Conlon, Marcelo Lehninger and Guillermo Figueroa among many others, and has performed at such esteemed venues as Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall, Merkin Hall and Alice Tully Hall in New York City; the Broad Stage in Santa Monica, El Paso Pro Musica Series, the Kansas City Harriman-Jewell Series; Canada’s Glenn Gould Studio; Salzburg’s Grosses Festspielhaus; Dresden’s Semperoper; Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens; and Paris’s Palace of Versailles. Her festival credits include the Mostly Mozart, Ravinia, and Rockport festivals in the United States; Italy’s Festival dei Due Mondi (Spoleto); Switzerland’s Verbier Festival; the Festival de Radio France et Montpellier; and Japan’s Tokyo International Music Festival.

Ms. Martinez was the First Prize winner of the Anton G. Rubinstein International Piano Competition in Dresden, and a semifinalist at the 12th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, where she also received the Jury Discretionary Award. She began her piano studies in Caracas with her mother, Alicia Gaggioni, and attended The Juilliard School, where she earned her Bachelor and Master of Music degrees as a full scholarship student of Yoheved Kaplinsky. Ms. Martinez was a fellow of Carnegie Hall’s The Academy, and a member of Ensemble Connect (formerly known as Ensemble ACJW), while concurrently working on her doctoral studies with Marco Antonio de Almeida in Halle, Germany.

About Ankush Kumar Bahl

Ankush Kumar Bahl is currently the 13th Music Director in the Omaha Symphony's 100-year history. He is recognized today by orchestras and audiences alike for his impressive conducting technique, thoughtful interpretations, and engaging podium presence. In concert, he has left The Washington Post “wanting to hear more” and has been praised by The New York Times for his “clear authority and enthusiasm” and ability to “inspire.” His recent guest conducting highlights include performances with the New York Philharmonic, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Orchestre National de France, and the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de México, the Richmond Symphony, Virginia Symphony Orchestra, Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra and the National Symphony Orchestra (Washington, D.C.). Summer festival engagements include the Copenhagen Philharmonic at Tivoli, the Sun Valley Summer Symphony, the Wintergreen Summer Music Festival, the Chautauqua Institute, and at Wolf Trap with the NSO.

A protégé of former New York Philharmonic Music Director Kurt Masur, Bahl served as his assistant conductor at the Orchestre National de France from 2008-2011. From 2011-2015, he served as the assistant conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C. In addition to Maestro Masur, Bahl is fortunate to count Jaap van Zweden, Zdenek Macal, Christoph Eschenbach, David Zinman and Gianandrea Noseda among his mentors.

Ticketing Information

Tickets for Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique start at $20. Tickets can be purchased by visiting, through the Ticket Omaha app, or by calling Ticket Omaha at 402.345.0606. Student rush tickets are $10 and can be purchased one hour before the performance. Performance dates are subject to change. In the event of performance changes or cancellations, the Omaha Symphony will email ticket holders to inform them of new dates and ticketing options. Patrons with questions may email The Omaha Symphony also regularly posts performance updates at, along with the Omaha Symphony’s Twitter, Facebook and Instagram pages. Patrons can sign up for the latest updates at

Public Health Information

The safety of our patrons, musicians, staff, and community is the Omaha Symphony’s priority. The Omaha Symphony continues to work closely with the Douglas County Department of Health and our partners at Omaha Performing Arts and UNMC to ensure the safety of all involved in the Omaha Symphony’s return to live performances. All patrons will be required to complete a health screening questionnaire prior to accessing their mobile tickets via the Ticket Omaha app. Masks are required at indoor Omaha Symphony performances. The following changes have been implemented within the venue:

  • Enhanced Cleaning & Sanitation - Electrostatic technology disinfecting large common areas, enhanced sanitizing of high touch surfaces with hospital grade disinfectant and hand sanitizing stations throughout the venue.
  • Heating and Cooling System – Upgrades to air handling units includes bipolar ionization filtering out viruses through ventilation.
  • Staff and Patron Precautions – Staff, volunteers and patrons are required to wear face coverings regardless of vaccination status.
  • Touchless Experience – Tickets are accessible via the Ticket Omaha app. Tickets can also be printed at Will Call by request. Program notes will be delivered digitally.

Find the most up-to-date public health information at

This performance 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 Programs, artists, dates, times, prices, and availability are subject to change.

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