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Rachmaninoff Meets the New Piano

The Columbus Symphony Orchestra will open their 2018-19 season this weekend with a Rach concert. Rachmaninoff, that is. What's so great about Rachmaninoff? Well, we'll let the maestro handle your briefing on that .

Saturday's concert features guest artist Claire Huangci who will return to Columbus to play Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2. The piece was programmed specifically for Huangci in an effort to debut the orchestra's new Steinway piano acquired earlier this year. CSO's beloved maestro, George Del Gobbo, is thrilled to bring Huangci back to Columbus for the performance.

Photo courtesy of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra.

If you know anything about George Del Gobbo, you know his kindness, humor, and wit permeate everything he touches. A conductor as collaborative and genuine as Del Gobbo is a rare gem in the music industry, which is an enormous reason as to why some of the finest classical musicians in the world come to play- and in Huangci's case, return to play- with the CSO every season.

To better prepare for Saturday's concert, we corresponded with Huangci to learn more about her relationship with the CSO. What we got back was endearing. Read on as Huangci shares about why she loves to perform in our city, her thoughts on Rachmaninoff, and what local activity she's planning to tackle while she's here.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

For more information about Rachmaninoff Meets the New Piano, see our "More to Know" section at the end of this interview.

Photo by Mateusz Zahora.

Q: We are thrilled to welcome you back to the RiverCenter in Columbus, Georgia. What made you want to return to play in our community with the CSO?

A: This has been a really great and long collaboration with Maestro del Gobbo and the CSO. My first time was in 2011 and from that time, there was already a great rapport between us. That rapport has developed into a warm friendship which makes each time to come back a real highlight in my season! I look forward to returning with great joy!

CSO's new Steinway Piano. Photo courtesy of the CSO.

Q: You are debuting the new Steinway. Have you done an instrument debut concert like this before? What excites you about being the first to play it publicly?

A: I believe I did one concert with a new piano in Mexico. I am thrilled to try it out this weekend, and am sure it will be an inspiration for the program!

Q: You've been asked to play one of the most famous piano concertos in the repertoire. Please describe the challenges of Rachmaninoff Concerto No. 2, and also please describe your favorite excerpts. Why do you love this piece?

A: This is a favorite not only for me, but for audiences around the world. It has even been used in numerous movies. The melodies in the piece follow our thoughts for a long time after a concert, and it's a piece that makes the heart race and gives us wet eyes.

Photo by Gregor Hohenberg.

Q: Please describe Rachmaninoff for our readers in three words. As a performer, why do you feel as though Rachmaninoff's music has connected with so many, so successfully, for so long?

A: Pure, modest, noble. Rachmaninoff is someone with a sad soul, who wears his heart on his sleeve and he has an innate ability to speak directly to our hearts.

Q: What are you most looking forward to about returning to Columbus? Any local favorite spots to eat or visit while you're here?

A: Well, last time I was there, I did the zip line, so this time I am looking forward to the Whitewater Express.

Q: Do you have any pre-performance traditions? How do you prepare to take the stage?

A: I eat responsibly, that's the most important thing on a concert day. That and, of course, hopefully a good night’s sleep. It’s all in a day’s work!

Watch a solo performance by Huangci:

More to Know:

On Saturday, September 8th, the CSO will begin their season's opening day with an Open Dress Rehearsal beginning at 12:30 p.m. The CSO encourages attendance from all members of the community, including those who are unable to attend the evening concert or looking for a “behind-the-scenes” look into the ensemble. These open rehearsals are the perfect way to introduce young children to a live musical experience in a sensory-friendly environment. Continuing the tradition, this informal and all-inclusive atmosphere is breaking the financial barrier by encouraging attendees to “pay what you want.” Audience members set their own prices to eliminate hesitation and allow new viewers to partake in the music being created by the CSO.

Then, at 6 p.m. the CSO will host a free season opening reception in the RiverCenter lobby prior to the performance. Audience members are encouraged to attend the Maestro's Know the Score at 6:30 p.m. in Studio Theatre. Know the Score is a casual pre- concert conversation with Music Director and Conductor George Del Gobbo that provides insight into the repertoire on the evening’s concert.◼︎

If You Go:

What: Rachmaninoff Meets the New Piano

When: Saturday, September 8, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Bill Heard Theatre, RiverCenter for the Performing Arts

Cost: $5 to $39; Student tickets are available for $10. Tickets for children (ages 5-12) are $5.

Contact: For more information call the RiverCenter Box Office at 706.256.3612 or online at

Your Conversation Starter for the Evening:

"So, is it Rachmaninoff or Rachmaninov?"

According to numerous sources, "Rachmaninoff" is the spelling the composer used for his name and therefore is the correct spelling. The Russian-born composer did not change the way he spelled his last name when he came to America. However, many scholars argue "Rachmaninov" as the correct English spelling of the composer's name.

The bottom line?

You decide. We went with the Maestro's call.


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