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Young People's Symphony Orchestra - Fall Concert
El Cerrito High School Performing Arts Theater
El Cerrito, CA
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Young People's Symphony Orchestra - Fall Concert
Young People's Symphony Orchestra (YPSO) kicks off its 77th season with the Fall Concert that will feature guest pianist Norman Krieger, music director/conductor David Ramadanoff, and 100 young musicians in a program of Aaron Copland's El Salón México, Jennifer Higdon's Blue Cathedral, and Sergei Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor at the El Cerrito High School Performing Arts Theater.

The opening concert of YPSO's 77th season is a concert of many firsts, including its first performances at the El Cerrito High School Performing Arts Theater, but most of them center around the monumental Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 3:  guest pianist Norman Krieger will perform the Rachmaninoff for the first time, it will be David Ramadanoff's first time to conduct the piece, and it will be the first time the orchestra has ever played the 45-minute work, which will be the featured piece on the program.

Sergei Rachmaninoff's Third Piano Concerto, which received its premiere in 1909 in New York with the composer at the piano, is a gigantic work that only virtuoso pianists can attempt, much less play well. Rachmaninoff dedicated the piece to his friend and legendary pianist Josef Hoffman, who never played the work, but, instead, it was the young Vladimir Horowitz who championed the work in the 1920s and 1930s and made it part of the regular concert repertoire.  

Krieger, who is a professor of piano at the University of Southern California, has played to critical acclaim many of the standard piano concerti in the classical music repertoire with American and European orchestras, but has never performed the Rachmaninoff Third Piano Concerto."It's been a dream of mine my whole life to play it," he says. Krieger likens the work to an opera, given its vast scope. "It reflects the human condition on an epic scale. The first movement is like the history of the piano. Rachmaninoff was experimenting with so many things. You hear choral music, Bach and Liszt in it. And using the modern piano's capabilities, he took advantage of all the overtones, layers of sound, and celebrates sonority. I can't think of any other concerto that does that before it," he says.

For Ramadanoff, Rachmaninoff's Third Piano Concerto is a challenge since he's never conducted it before. "There's so much to sort out, so much interaction between the pianist and orchestra. The integration of the orchestra and piano is complex," says Ramadanoff. Krieger and Ramadanoff have collaborated before at the Vallejo Symphony on Liszt and Brahms piano concerti, and first met when they were both students at The Juilliard School in New York in the 1970s. "Norman is a marvelous pianist," says Ramadanoff.  For more information on Krieger, go to

The orchestra will open the concert with a performance of Aaron Copland's El Salón México.  Copland composed this vibrant and harmonically inventive piece after the he visited an enormous dance hall called Salón México during a trip to Mexico City in 1932. He based it on melodies of Mexican folk songs he found later, but reinvented them with his emerging compositional style that made his music seem both familiar yet new, all the while trying to capture the spirit of the Mexican people he found in the dance hall. Ramadanoff calls El Salón a wonderful study in learning complex rhythms for the orchestra's musicians. "It's good rhythmic discipline and fun to play," he says.

The other work on the program will be Pulitzer-Prize winning American composer Jennifer Higdon's Blue Cathedral. Her most performed orchestral work, Higdon composed it for the Curtis Institute of Music's 75th anniversary in 2000 and during a reflective period in her life after the death of her brother, Andrew Blue. Higdon says the blue in the title refers to the sky, where all possibilities soar and cathedrals represent a place of thought, growth, spiritual expression that serve as a symbolic doorway in to and out of this world. "As I was writing this piece, I found myself imagining a journey through a glass cathedral in the sky. Because the walls would be transparent, I saw the image of clouds and blueness permeating from the outside of this church," she writes about Blue Cathedral on her website (

Ramadanoff likes to introduce YPSO's musicians to new works and Blue Cathedral is the second piece of Higdon's YPSO has performed in recent years. "It has opportunity for solos for many instruments. It involves everybody. And at the end there's a fun effect that calls for the string players to play Chinese prayer bells and the low brass and horns players to play tuned crystal water glasses," says Ramadanoff.

Celebrating his 25th season as Music Director/Conductor, David Ramadanoff conducts 100 YPSO young musicians who range in age from 12 to 19 and hail from 32 Bay Area cities in seven counties.

Founded in Berkeley in 1936, YPSO is the oldest youth orchestra in California and the second oldest in the nation. The 2013-14 season is its 77th season since violinist and conductor Jessica Marcelli founded YSPO at the suggestion of Clarabelle Bell, an amateur harpist and Berkeley resident, who got the idea after hearing a youth orchestra on a trip to Portland, Oregon.

Aaron Copland  El Salón México
Jennifer Higdon  Blue Cathedral
Sergei Rachmaninoff  Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Norman Krieger, guest pianist



El Cerrito High School Performing Arts Theater (View)
540 Ashbury Avenue
El Cerrito, CA 94530
United States

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Music > Classical
Music > Symphony
Other > Family-Friendly

Minimum Age: 5
Kid Friendly: Yes!
Dog Friendly: No
Non-Smoking: Yes!
Wheelchair Accessible: Yes!


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