After a pandemic-driven hiatus of more than a year, the Greenville Symphony Orchestra has returned to the stage with gusto while most of the nation’s other top orchestras remain silent.
The orchestra, one of the Upstate’s cornerstone arts organizations, scheduled 14 performances of seven programs within the space of three months, March-May.
But the scaled-down ensemble has observed strict protocols, with the audience and musicians physically separated and everyone wearing masks. In addition, the concerts are relatively short – about 70 minutes – with no intermission. Four programs remain on the schedule through May.
Next up, music director Edvard Tchivzhel will lead the orchestra in Grieg’s ever-popular Piano Concerto and Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 1 at the Peace Center.
The April 24-25 concerts seem perfect for springtime, with youth in the spotlight. Grieg wrote his sunny Piano Concerto at age 24; Mendelssohn composed his vigorous First Symphony at the ripe age of 15.
And the featured soloist on the program is 18-year-old pianist Maxim Lando.
“This is probably the most perfectly crafted concerto of them all,” said Lando, speaking of Grieg’s three-movement work. “It’s so concise, yet it hits all the emotions. I’m really excited to be playing this.”
The work’s rich array of folk-song-like melodies makes the work particularly attractive, Lando said.
“It’s lush, romantic, hauntingly beautiful,” Lando said, speaking by phone from his home in Long Island, New York. “It’s one of the great concertos.”
Lando, who began playing piano at age 3, already has a number of honors to his credit. He was awarded the prestigious 2020 Gilmore Young Artist Award and was also recently named Musical America’s New Artist of the Month. He first received national attention at the age of 14, appearing on the piano bench alongside Lang Lang to perform the parts intended for Lang’s injured left hand, on tour and at Carnegie Hall’s Gala Opening Night with the Philadelphia Orchestra led by Yannick Nézet-Séguin. Lando, with a Ukrainian-American background, was born in New York.
Tchivzhel, who’ll be on the podium for the program, has a special connection to Grieg: His father named him “Edvard” after the Norwegian composer.
“My father was a great admirer of Grieg,” Tchivzhel said.
Tchivzhel also played the concerto’s solo part in his native Soviet Union many years ago.
Mendelssohn wrote his First Symphony in honor of his sister, composer Fanny Mendelssohn, on the occasion of her 19th birthday.
Tchivzhel compares Mendelssohn to Mozart, two composers who produced a wealth of music despite dying at young ages (Mendelssohn at age 38, Mozart at 35). Both also began writing great works at a very early age, as if they were racing against time.
Of Mendelssohn’s First Symphony, Tchivzhel said, “It’s such a mature, dramatic piece that it’s hard to imagine this was written by a 15-year-old boy.”
Looking ahead, Ankush Kumar Bahl, music director-designate of the Omaha Symphony, will be the guest conductor for a May 1-2 Greenville Symphony program called “Sensational Strings” at the magnificent First Presbyterian Church. The program includes Britten’s “Simple Symphony,” Sibelius’ “Rakastava” and Dvorak’s Serenade for Strings.
Paul Hyde, a longtime Upstate journalist, writes about the arts for the Greenville Journal. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @PaulHyde7.
If you go
What: Greenville Symphony Orchestra performs Grieg and Mendelssohn; Maxim Lando, pianist; Edvard Tchivzhel, conductor
When: 8 p.m. Saturday, April 24; 3 p.m. Sunday, April 25
Where: Peace Center