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Blair to open its 2012-13 recital series with Russian fireworks

Blair School of Music cellist Felix Wang spent years searching for the right pianist to play Rachmaninoff’s Cello Sonata with. “Not every pianist can play the piano part in that sonata,” says Wang. “It’s difficult enough to be a Rachmaninoff piano concerto.”

felixFortunately, Blair pianist Craig Nies eats Rachmaninoff piano concertos for breakfast. So on Wednesday evening, he’ll join Wang in an-all Russian program featuring Rachmaninoff’s Sonata for Cello and Piano in G minor along with Shostakovich’s Sonata for Cello and Piano in D minor. The recital opens Blair’s 2012-13 faculty recital series.

Inspirationally speaking, Rachmaninoff was on fire when he wrote his Cello Sonata. He had just finished his dazzling Second Piano Concerto when he started work on the cello piece. Both works are filled with the composer’s trademark beautiful melodies. “Craig Nies says the sonata is basically a Rachmaninoff piano concerto in which the cello gets all the good tunes,” says Wang. “Actually, I think the two instruments play an equal role.”

Rachmaninoff’s sonata is symphonic and scope – it lasts about 30 minutes – and Romantic in style. Shostakovich’s Cello Sonata is more modern, but it’s no less daunting in its difficulty.  In fact, the finale is nothing short of a wild ride, with blistering piano scales forming a backdrop for the cello’s vertiginous passagework.

“The finale is full of crazy moments,” says Wang.

If You Go

Cellist Felix Wang and pianist Craig Nies perform Rachmaninoff and Shostakovich at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 12 at Turner Recital Hall, 2400 Blakemore Ave. The performance is free.

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About John Pitcher

John Pitcher is the chief classical music, jazz and dance critic as well as co-founder of ArtsNash. He has been a classical music critic for the Washington Post, the Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle, National Public Radio’s Performance Today (NPR), ArtNowNashville.com and the Nashville Scene. His writings about music and the arts have also appeared in Symphony Magazine, American Record Guide and Stagebill Magazine, among other publications. Pitcher earned his master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, where he studied arts writing with Judith Crist and Phyllis Garland. His work has received the New York State Associated Press award for outstanding classical music criticism.