ESO wraps season with award-winning pianist

Updated 6/1/2011 8:19 AM

The Elgin Symphony will wrap up its 2010-11 season in spectacular fashion next weekend when the critically acclaimed Korean pianist Joyce Yang joins music director Robert Hanson and the orchestra at the Hemmens Theatre in an all-Russian program titled "Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff."

Yang, 25, has established herself as one of the world's leading pianists, having captured the silver medal in 2005 at the 12th Van Cliburn International Competition in Fort Worth, Texas. As the youngest contestant, Yang swept two additional awards as an all-around winner, receiving the Steven De Groote Memorial Award for Best Performance of Chamber Music and the Beverley Taylor Smith Award for Best Performance of a New Work.


Befitting a star of her magnitude, Yang will perform one of the hallmarks of the late romantic piano repertoire, Sergei Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor. The other major work on the program is Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6 in B Minor ("Pathetique"), one of that composer's most famous compositions.

Following her Van Cliburn Competition accomplishments, Yang has gone on to establish herself as one of the leading pianists of her generation through her solo recitals and collaborations with the world's top orchestras. In 2010 she was awarded an Avery Fisher Career Grant, one of the most prestigious prizes in classical music.

In November 2006, she made her New York Philharmonic debut with then-music director Lorin Maazel at Avery Fisher Hall and performed on the orchestra's Asian tour, making a triumphant return to her hometown of Seoul, South Korea. Since then, she has appeared with the Philharmonic numerous times, including the opening night of the Leonard Bernstein Festival in September 2008 at the special request of Maazel in his final season as music director. She gave a critically praised performance of Bernstein's second piano concerto, subtitled "The Age of Anxiety," a piece she also played last summer at Ravinia with conductor James Conlon and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Next weekend's Classic Series concerts are at 1:30 p.m. Friday, June 10; 8 p.m. Saturday, June 11; and 3:30 p.m. Sunday, June 12. Tickets are $16-$58 for Friday's matinee and $16-$66 for the Saturday and Sunday concerts. Call the Elgin Symphony Orchestra box office at (847) 888-4000, or visit

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Lyric finishes in the black: It was another successful season at Lyric Opera of Chicago, with the company balancing its books to wind up in the black for the 23rd time in the past 24 years, a record unmatched by any major opera company. A total of 229,775 tickets were sold, reaching 91 percent of capacity for the 3,500-seat Civic Opera House. The season included 68 regular performances of the eight-opera schedule, along with a pair of student matinees and a subscriber appreciation concert. Ticket revenue was $23.8 million and, and the company exceeded its $17.2 million fundraising goal. To help balance the budget, the Lyric dipped into its "Campaign for Excellence Fund" to the tune of $4.4 million.

General Director William Mason, heading into his final season this fall before retirement, addressed the directors at the May 23 annual meeting, noting that the Lyric has so far met the economic downturn.

"Arts organizations all over the country are facing a new reality that includes significant economic, cultural and demographic challenges," Mason said.

"But I believe that Lyric Opera is in a better position than most to face those challenges as we go forward. Marrying artistic excellence with fiscal prudence has always been the company's hallmark. We have a strong audience and donor base. We have tailored the length of our season to match current audience demand. We continue to employ new strategies to maximize ticket sales, and we are meeting our annual fundraising goals. We are one of the few opera companies in the country without an accumulated deficit."

Anthony Freud, Mason's successor as general director starting with the 2012-13 season, attended the meeting and had high praise for the Lyric, past and present.

"I believe passionately in great opera companies such as Lyric, their focus on excellence in everything they do, and their need to engage proactively and dynamically with the cities they are in existence to serve," Freud said. "Through a combination of excellence, relevance and fiscal responsibility, opera companies in general, and Lyric in particular, can fulfill their potential and thrive both artistically and financially."