Tchaikovsky reigns at Philharmonic gala

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Whether you paid $35 for a second balcony seat or big bucks to support the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra and Music School last Sunday afternoon, you received more than your money’s worth in one of the greatest concerts I have ever experienced at Vets.

The Philharmonic’s new artistic advisor, Bramwell Tovey, thrilled the nearly sold-out audience with three familiar works of Tchaikovsky, including his Piano Concerto No. 1, brilliantly played by guest soloist Olga Kern.

The usually staid audience couldn’t control themselves after the first movement, applauding long and loud before the orchestra could move on to the more sedate second movement. Kern, considered one of her generation’s great pianists, played the difficult piece with such gusto that I was exhausted just watching her.

If Olga Kern ever sits down at the piano in a venue within a thousand miles of you, buy an airline ticket and go see her. Not only did she master the piano concerto, she returned after thunderous applause to play a piece that is considered one of the most difficult.

The concert was followed by a dinner at the adjacent Renaissance Providence Hotel, where George T. Wein, producer of the Newport Jazz and Folk Festivals, was honored with the prestigious John Hazen White Sr. Leadership in the Arts Award.

Classical music lovers eagerly await Tovey’s move to Rhode Island for next season’s concert series. In the meantime, the RIPO has lined up some very interesting programs to complete the season, including “A Night at the Opera” on Saturday, April 13 at 8 p.m., with Marie Jacquot conducting and featuring tenor Jonathan Burton and soprano Julia Radosz. Music from Rossini’s “William Tell Overture,” Puccini’s “La Boheme," Tosca’s “Madame Butterfly” and other showpieces will be on the exciting program. There will be an open rehearsal on Friday, April 12 at 5:30 p.m.

The season finale on Saturday, May 4 (with a Rush Hour concert at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, May 3) will feature Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture.” Tickets are available at 248-7000.

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