PORTLAND, Ore.—During March 18-19, the Portland Columbia Symphony Orchestra filled the First United Methodist Church in downtown Portland with liveliness, spirit, and drama, honoring two remarkable anniversaries.
In celebration of the 200th anniversary of the great Hungarian composer and piano virtuoso Franz Liszt’s birth, the orchestra performed his Symphonic Poem, “Mazeppa.” This piece was inspired by Victor Hugo’s dramatic poem of the same name, in which the legendary Polish Cossack leader was strapped to a madly galloping horse. In this highly difficult Transcendental Etude, Liszt masterfully described Mazeppa's fall from his horse in orchestral terms.
Columbia Symphony also honored a centenary of Alan Hovhaness, one of the greatest American composers who lived in the Pacific Northwest the last decades of his life. His fascinating Meditation on Orpheus (1958) is a musical representation of a Greek legend about Orpheus, a poet and musician of magical music. Orpheus descended into the underworld in search of his deceased wife, which resulted in his own death. This symphonic poem created an ambience of mystery and emotional intensity.
The exceptionally gifted musician, Benjamin Kim returned to his hometown to play Rachmaninoff’s popular Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini with the Columbia Symphony Orchestra. The 26-year-old pianist has won numerous national and international competitions and is recognized as one of the most promising American pianists of his generation.
Kim was born and raised in Portland, Oregon, where he began studying piano at age 5 and made his solo debut at 8. Since then, Ben has performed regularly throughout the United States, Europe, and East Asia, including his orchestral debut at Carnegie Hall in 2008 and at Suntory Hall in Tokyo in 2009.
This past season the pianist’s itinerary included a 13-concert tour through Japan with the Brno Philharmonic, as well a number of debuts in Germany, including those at the Berlin Philharmonie.
Kim’s interpretations have been praised internationally for rare maturity, imagination, and insight. His legendary teacher and mentor, Leon Fleisher proclaimed Ben’s "enormous potential for a first-class career," according to Portland Columbia Symphony's website.
Under the baton of the music director of the Portland Columbia Symphony Huw Edwards, the orchestra ended the evening performing a vigorous rendition of a Northwest premiere of Andrew Poole Todd’s “Foxbridge.” A young and talented Portland composer, Todd was recently awarded the first place in the 2010 Asia America Symphony International Composition Competition.