Southern Tier Symphony's last concert of the season to feature internationally-known pianist

Benjamin Laude

Two of orchestral music’s most influential composers will be highlighted, as well as a globe-trotting soloist, this weekend by the Southern Tier Symphony during the group’s final concerts of their 16th season.

The program begins with the “Coriolan Overture” by Ludwig Van Beethoven and is followed by Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, featuring pianist Benjamin Laude. The concert will end with Johannes Brahms’ Symphony No. 4 in E minor.

Betsy Cashing, executive director of the Southern Tier Symphony, said this year has “just been a joy, honestly,” with “excellent” community attendance. It was her first season at the helm since Kim Whitney, whose husband John founded the organization, passed on the torch at the end of the 15th season.

“The Southern Tier audience has eclectic tastes — they appreciate all we do,” Cashing said. “And that says a lot of great things about them.”

The orchestra — under the direction of Benjamin Grow, wrapping up his second season as conductor and music director — will be joined this weekend by Laude, whose piano playing has been praised by the New York Times as “superb in pace, tone, and eloquence. ”

Cashing said Laude is flying in from Texas to join the group. She added Laude will join Grow in the organization’s usual free pre-concert talks beginning 45 minutes before each performance, to which the public is invited.

Debuting with the Austin Symphony at age 17 in a performance of Rachmaninoff’s 1st Piano Concerto, Laude has since performed in Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall and Alice Tully Hall in New York, venues from Miami to Santa Fe, San Diego to the British Virgin Islands, as well as around the world, from Prague to Ramallah. Laude has been heard in live performance on Chicago’s WFMT as part of the Myra Hess Memorial Concerts, WQXR’s Chopin Marathon at the Greene Space in New York, as well as Austin’s “Eklektikos” and “Classical Austin” programs.

In October 2017, he appeared as a special guest on David Dubal’s nationally syndicated program “The Piano Matters” (WWFM) for a three-part series commemorating the 35th anniversary of Glenn Gould’s death, featuring excerpts from Laude’s recordings of Bach’s Goldberg Variations and E Minor Partita. During the 2018-2019 season Laude appears as a guest soloist at Piano Evenings with David Dubal and the Bach Store in New York; in collaboration with violist Hannah Rose Nicholas as part of the Tri-County Concerts Association’s Emerging Artists Series in Philadelphia; and in a lecture recital at the University of California-Irvine.

Holding a doctorate in piano from the Juilliard School, Laude has taught at Bard College-Conservatory and the Suzuki School for Strings in New York, and during the summer serves on the faculties of Berkshire Summer Music and Danbury Chamber Music Intensive.

Laude, in program notes on Concerto No. 4, said the piece “has been recognized for more than two centuries as Beethoven’s signature work in the genre.”

“Without precedent in the piano concerto literature, Beethoven set a trend in his Fourth by assigning the opening entrance to the piano alone. Unlike the thunderous flourishes that begin many later 19th-century concerti, including the “Emperor” (concerto in E-flat major), Beethoven here begins with an unassuming statement of the main theme, answered shyly by strings playing in the wrong key... Listen towards the end of the (first) movement to how the often stormy cadenza, penned by the composer himself, evaporates into the bliss whence it began.”

The symphony’s two concerts are set for 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Olean High School and 3 p.m. Sunday at the Bromeley Family Theater, University of Pittsburgh (Pa.) at Bradford. Tickets are $20 per person and students of any age are free.

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