A night in Vienna

Seen here in an earlier performance this season, the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra performs with guest conductor Rossen Milanov and piano soloist Angela Cheng at 8:15 p.m. tonight in the Amphitheater. Photo by Greg Funka.

Conductor Milanov, pianist Cheng to perform Mozartian works with CSO

Lauren Hutchison | Staff Writer


Angela Cheng adores the lifelong learning that goes hand in hand with collaborating with other musicians.

“You grow from that, and the next time you approach a piece, it’s never a carbon copy, because of what you’ve experienced,” she said. “I am always trying to search for the most honest and reflective response to what the music is about.”

Cheng returns to Chautauqua at 8:15 p.m. tonight in the Amphitheater to perform Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 27, K.595, with the Chautaqua Symphony Orchestra.

Rossen Milanov will make his CSO conducting debut with the concerto, Antonín Dvořák’s Carnival Overture, Op. 92, and Richard Strauss’ orchestral suite for the opera Der Rosenkavalier.


Milanov just completed concerts in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., with the Philadelphia Orchestra. He said summer classical music concerts have a special role in promoting classical music.

“It’s a good, win-win situation for both: for the audiences to experience music in a slightly more relaxed setting, and for musicians to establish a very good network of colleagues and measure up their accomplishments as they move along in their profession,” he said.

To open this summer concert, Milanov chose Dvořák’s “Carnival Overture,” which represents “Life” in the composer’s “Nature, Life and Love” overture trilogy. The swift pace and orchestration create an atmosphere of not just a carnival but other vital energies that come together within the piece, Milanov said.

“This is something that is important to music and something that music can portray very well — that concentration of energy that could be expressed,” he said.

The middle section of the piece is a small love poem: nocturnal and reminiscent of a Mozart opera, Milanov said.

This Mozart-like moment is followed by Cheng’s performance of Mozart’s last piano concerto, which she declared the most mature and inspired of the composer’s piano concertos.

“To me, it’s perfect music, in that he’s able to communicate all that he wants in, actually, not many notes,” she said.

The concerto’s first movement is extraordinarily expressive and singing in its character, with a beautiful balance between the orchestra and the piano. It leads into a broad, slow movement, which Cheng called the soul of the work, with its pristine, ethereal, delicate character and deep emotion. The third movement is playful, charming, and full of spirit. Cheng said the exciting concerto is full of virtuosic writing for both the piano and the orchestra and is “a real crowd-pleaser.”

Cheng won the Medal of Excellence at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria, in 1991 for her interpretations of Mozart’s works.

“I feel, and I hope, that through my performance, you are aware of what Mozart was trying to say, rather than what I am trying to say,” she said. “I’m just a medium for this great music to pass through and to let the audience enjoy what he had created.”

Mozart’s classical style and Vienna home are revived in the second half of the program with Strauss’ neoclassical Der Rosenkavalier suite. Apart from being the seat of classical composers like Mozart, Beethoven, Franz Schubert and Joseph Haydn, Vienna is famous for its Viennese waltz, which permeates the piece, Milanov said.

One remarkable moment of the opera and the suite is the presentation of the silver rose, where Strauss’ superb talents as an orchestrator are exceptionally evident, Milanov said.

“The entire orchestra seems to be reflecting that object, made out of silver, that’s presented on stage,” he said. “You can’t miss it. It’s such a unique, silver world.”

Milanov was appointed as the music director of the Princeton Symphony Orchestra in 2009 and continues to serve as the music director of the New Symphony Orchestra, a youth orchestra in Sofia, Bulgaria, and of Symphony in C, a leading U.S. professional training orchestra. He is concluding an 11-year tenure as the artistic director and associate conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra. His guest appearances will take him to four different continents next year, conducting operas, ballets, symphonic music and pops concerts.

Cheng just finished a European tour with the Zukerman Chamber Players. The ensemble will return to Europe and perform in South America next year. Cheng also will perform sonata recitals with Pinchas Zukerman. She is a Steinway Artist and the associate professor of piano at the Oberlin Conservatory.

Cheng makes her Carnegie Hall debut on May 8, 2012, with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, performing the U.S. premiere of John Estacio’s Triple Concerto with violinist Juliette Kang and cellist Denise Djokic, under the direction of William Eddins, who conducted the CSO earlier this season on July 30.