Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Celebrates 150th Birthday of Composer Jean Sibelius

It’s a Finnish celebration at the BNY Mellon Grand Classics on March 11 and 13 when the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra welcomes Finland’s leading conductor, Osmo Vänskä, to Heinz Hall for a program filled with the music of his country’s most esteemed composer, Jean Sibelius.

Vänskä makes his long-awaited return to the Pittsburgh Symphony to celebrate Sibelius’ 150th birthday. The concert opens with the rousing Finlandia, one of the world’s great works of musical patriotism. Its slow hymn-like passage before the finale perfectly embodies the aspirations of a country trying to free itself from foreign oppression. Canadian violinist James Ehnes returns to Pittsburgh to perform Sibelius’ only concerto, a mercilessly beautiful and highly virtuosic work. Sibelius’ Symphony No. 2 — with its warm strings, playful woodwinds and the most heroic of finales — closes the program

A pre-concert talk, open to all ticket holders and led by Assistant Conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong, will occur on stage one hour before each concert. Program notes for the weekend are available online at pittsburghsymphony.org/sibelius and on the PSO mobile app the day of the concert.

During the weekend, beginning one hour before concert time, student musicians will perform in the Grand Lobby of Heinz Hall. On Friday evening, a Youth Chamber Connection Quartet will perform and on Sunday, the Center for Young Musicians will play. These performances are free to ticketholders.

The concert begins at 8 p.m. on Friday and 2:30 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets, ranging in price from $20 to $94, can be purchased by calling the Heinz Hall box office at 412-392-4900 or visiting pittsburghsymphony.org/sibelius.

The Pittsburgh Symphony would like to recognize and thank BNY Mellon for its 2015-2016 title sponsorship of BNY Mellon Grand Classics. Fairmont Pittsburgh is the official hotel of the Pittsburgh Symphony. Delta Air Lines is the official airline of the Pittsburgh Symphony.

About the Artists

Osmo Vanska_cr Greg Helgeson_webMusic director of the Minnesota Orchestra for over a decade, OSMO VÄNSKÄ is recognized for his compelling interpretations of repertoire from all ages, passionately conveying the authentic message of the composer’s score.

Recent and upcoming performances include Vänskä’s return to the Chicago and San Francisco symphony orchestras, The Cleveland Orchestra, Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and Orchestre de la Suisse Romande. He regularly conducts the London Symphony and London Philharmonic orchestras, Netherlands Radio Philharmonic, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Wiener Symphoniker and Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, and has developed strong relationships with the Helsinki Philharmonic, New World Symphony and the Mostly Mozart Festival, New York.

Last season he led the Minnesota Orchestra in a historic first visit by a major U.S. orchestra to Cuba since the normalization of relations between the two governments. He also became principal guest conductor of Iceland Symphony Orchestra, having previously held the position of music director. As one of the most renowned interpreters of Sibelius’ music, he continues to celebrate the composer’s 2015 anniversary – at the BBC Proms and with the São Paulo, Lahti and Yomiuri Nippon symphony orchestras.

Vänskä is a distinguished recording artist, primarily for the BIS label. In 2014, his album with the Minnesota Orchestra of Sibelius’ Symphonies Nos.1 and 4 won a Grammy award for Best Orchestral Performance, following the nomination of Symphonies Nos. 2 and 5 the year before. Previous albums, including a complete Beethoven symphonies cycle and recordings of Beethoven’s piano concertos with Yevgeny Sudbin, again with the Minnesota Orchestra, have also garnered worldwide praise – including Grammy and Gramophone award nominations.

Formerly music director of the Lahti Symphony Orchestra and chief conductor of BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Vänskä studied conducting at Finland’s Sibelius Academy and was awarded first prize in the 1982 Besançon Competition. He began his career as a clarinetist, occupying, amongst others, the co-principal chair of the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, and in recent years has enjoyed a return to the clarinet, including on a 2012 recording of Kalevi Aho’s chamber works.

Vänskä is the recipient of a Royal Philharmonic Society Award, the Finlandia Foundation’s Arts and Letters award, and the 2010 Ditson Award from Columbia University. He holds honorary doctorates from the universities of Glasgow and Minnesota and was named Musical America’s 2005 Conductor of the Year. In 2013 he received the Annual Award from the German Record Critics’ Award Association for his involvement in BIS’s recordings of the complete works by Sibelius.

James EhnesBorn in 1976 in Brandon, Manitoba, Canada, JAMES EHNES has established himself as one of the foremost violinists of his generation. Gifted with a rare combination of stunning virtuosity, serene lyricism and an unfaltering musicality, Ehnes is a favorite guest of many of the world’s most respected conductors including Ashkenazy, Alsop, Sir Andrew Davis, Denève, Dutoit, Elder, Ivan Fischer, Paavo Järvi, Maazel, Noseda, Robertson and Runnicles. Ehnes’s long list of orchestras includes, amongst others, the Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, New York, London Symphony, Philharmonia, BBC Philharmonic, Czech Philharmonic, DSO Berlin and the NHK Symphony orchestras.

Recent and future orchestral highlights include London Symphony with Alsop, Vienna Symphony with Elder, New York Philharmonic with Mena, Orchestre National de France with Gardner, Philadelphia and Boston Symphony Orchestra with Denève, Frankfurt Radio Symphony with Orozco-Estrada, Danish and Washington National Symphony with Noseda, Pittsburgh Symphony with Vänskä, Royal Philharmonic with Dutoit, DSO Berlin and Sydney Symphony with Søndergård, and Oslo Philharmonic with Petrenko.

Alongside his concerto work, Ehnes maintains a busy recital schedule. He has appeared at festivals such as City of London, Ravinia, Montreux, Chaise-Dieu, the White Nights in St Petersburg, Festival de Pâques in Aix, and in 2009 he made a sensational debut at the Salzburg Festival performing the Paganini Caprices. Ehnes is a regular guest at the Wigmore Hall in London and at the 2007 BBC Proms he premiered a new work for violin and piano by Aaron Jay Kernis. In May 2016, Ehnes will embark on a cross-Canada recital tour to celebrate his 40th birthday.

As a chamber musician, he has collaborated with leading artists such as Andsnes, Lortie, Vogler and Yo-Yo Ma. In 2010, he formally established the Ehnes Quartet, with whom he made his debut European tour in February 2014 and returns in autumn 2015 for performances at the Wigmore Hall, Auditorium du Louvre in Paris and Théâtre du Jeu de Paume in Aix, amongst others. Ehnes is the artistic director of the Seattle Chamber Music Society.

Ehnes has an extensive discography and has won many awards for his recordings including a 2008 Gramophone Award for his live recording of the Elgar Concerto with Sir Andrew Davis and the Philharmonia Orchestra. His recording of the Korngold, Barber and Walton violin concertos won a 2008 Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Soloist Performance and a 2008 JUNO award for Best Classical Album of the Year.

His 2010 recording of the Paganini Caprices earned him universal praise, with Diapason writing of the disc, “Ehnes confirms the predictions of Erick Friedman, eminent student of Heifetz: ‘there is only one like him born every hundred years.’” Ehnes’s recent recording of the Bartók Concerti was nominated for a 2012 Gramophone Award in the Concerto category. Recent releases include concertos by Britten, Shostakovich, Prokofiev and Khachaturian.

Ehnes began violin studies at the age of four, became a protégé of the noted Canadian violinist Francis Chaplin aged nine, made his orchestral debut with Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal aged 13 and graduated from The Juilliard School in 1997, winning the Peter Mennin Prize for Outstanding Achievement and Leadership in Music. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and in 2010 was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada. Ehnes plays the “Marsick” Stradivarius of 1715.

The PITTSBURGH SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA, celebrating 120 years of music in the 2015-2016 season, is credited with a rich history of the world’s finest conductors and musicians, and a strong commitment to the Pittsburgh region and its citizens. Past music directors have included Fritz Reiner (1938-1948), William Steinberg (1952-1976), Andre Previn (1976-1984), Lorin Maazel (1984-1996) and Mariss Jansons (1995-2004).  This tradition of outstanding international music directors was furthered in fall 2008, when Austrian conductor Manfred Honeck became music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony. The orchestra has been at the forefront of championing new American works, and gave the first performance of Leonard Bernstein’s Symphony No. 1 “Jeremiah” in 1944 and John Adams’ Short Ride in a Fast Machine in 1986. The Pittsburgh Symphony has a long and illustrious history in the areas of recordings and radio concerts. As early as 1936, the Pittsburgh Symphony broadcast on the airwaves coast-to-coast and in the late 1970s it made the ground breaking PBS series “Previn and the Pittsburgh.” The orchestra has received increased national attention since 1982 through network radio broadcasts on Public Radio International, produced by Classical WQED-FM 89.3, made possible by the musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. With a long and distinguished history of touring both domestically and overseas since 1900—including 36 international tours to Europe, the Far East and South America—the Pittsburgh Symphony continues to be critically acclaimed as one of the world’s greatest orchestras.

HEINZ HALL FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS is owned and operated by Pittsburgh Symphony, Inc., a non-profit organization, and is the year-round home of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. The cornerstone of Pittsburgh’s Cultural District, Heinz Hall also hosts many other events that do not feature its world-renowned orchestra, including Broadway shows, comedians, speakers and much more. For a full calendar of upcoming non-symphony events at the hall, visit heinzhall.org.

Editors please note:

Friday, March 11 at 8 p.m.
Sunday, March 13 at 2:30 p.m.

Heinz Hall
OSMO VÄNSKÄ, conductor

Jean Sibelius:

Finlandia, Opus 26, No. 7

Concerto in D minor for Violin and Orchestra, Opus 47
I. Allegro moderato
II. Adagio di molto
III. Allegro, ma non tanto
Mr. Ehnes

Symphony No. 2 in D major, Opus 43
I. Allegretto
II. Andante, ma rubato
III. Vivacissimo
IV. Finale: Allegro moderato

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