Gavrylyuk, Seaman return for two evenings of Rachmaninoff

Internationally renowned pianist and Chautauqua favorite Alexander Gavrylyuk performs with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra last season. Daily file photo.

Kelsey Burritt | Staff Writer

Although guest conductor Christopher Seaman and pianist Alexander Gavrylyuk have traversed Chautauqua’s grounds and Amphitheater stage in seasons past, this will be the first visit for Gavrylyuk’s 6-month-old daughter.

“She’s the biggest inspiration I’ve ever had in terms of music,” Gavrylyuk said. “She already likes the piano. She sits next to the piano while I practice.”

It will also be his daughter’s first time attending one of her father’s concerts.

“Hopefully, she will listen instead of becoming another soloist in the middle,” Gavrylyuk said.

Gavrylyuk has been coming to Chautauqua every summer for the past six years. His first performance in Chautauqua followed his winning the First Prize, Gold Medal, and Best Performance of a Classical Concerto at the Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Masters Competition in 2005.

Seaman first conducted the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra last summer, and one of his concerts happened during the 16-hour power outage.

“I was the victim. I was the innocent victim of the blackout, but it’s fine,” Seaman said. “I am pleased to say that we are playing the entire piece this year, Dvorak’s Eighth Symphony, that we were only able to play one movement from last year.”

Seaman and Gavrylyuk will spend two concerts in a row with the CSO and will perform tonight at 8:15 p.m. in the Amphitheater and Saturday at 8:15 p.m.

Tonight’s concert will spotlight Gavrylyuk playing Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 1, Op. 1 in F-sharp Minor, followed by Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 5. The program will open with Sibelius’ “Finlandia.”

Seaman was the longest-standing conductor of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, with a tenure of 13 years. Now retired, Seaman continues to guest conduct after an illustrious career beginning as a timpanist for the London Philharmonic.

Although Seaman had wanted to be a conductor from a young age, one of his music directors advised him to become a timpanist for the position’s ability to observe everything that happens in the orchestra.

“You hear everything, you see everything, you get a very good view of the conductor, you get a very good feel of the whole orchestra, you get enough bars’ rest to notice what’s going on around you,” Seaman said. “And you need a great deal of confidence.”

Playing in the London Philharmonic also gave Seaman the opportunity to observe a huge number of internationally recognized conductors.

“I used to sit and stare at them all the time in the hopes that something would rub off,” Seaman said. “And I hope some of it may have done so.”

Gavrylyuk gave his first concerto performance at age 9. Critics in Japan named him “the best 16-year-old pianist of the late 20th century.” Now 28 years old, Gavrylyuk is an internationally recognized pianist whose latest engagements have taken him throughout Europe, Australia and North America.

Rachmaninoff composed his first piano concerto at age 18, although he would revise the piece thoroughly 26 years later. As for Gavrylyuk’s own composing career, he said he would have to wait for a time in his life with more peace and quiet to compose his own ideas. For now, he is focused on performing.

After performing Rachmaninoff’s first piano concerto tonight, Gavrylyuk will play his second piano concerto Saturday. Rachmaninoff saw his first piano concerto performed much more than modern audiences, who tend to prefer the second.

“It has the fire, and the energy and electricity of a young passionate man, and there’s a lot of expression of love but also drama and suffering,” Gavrylyuk said of the first piano concerto.

One of his goals is to find the artistic truth in every piece he performs, Gavrylyuk said.

“It has an immense beauty, and it is very honest, very heartfelt and very sincere music,” Gavrylyuk said.

Preceding Gavrylyuk’s performance of the Rachmaninoff will be Sibelius’ “Finlandia.”

“Sibelius thought he was writing a piece that would inspire the Finnish nation,” Seaman said. “What he’s actually written is a piece that inspires all humanity.”

Music is unspecific, Seaman said, and music is apolitical. Because of that, composers of genius such as Sibelius are able to write music that transcends time and place.

The concert draws to a close with Mendelssohn’s Fifth Symphony, or “Reformation Symphony.”

“I’ve always been very fond of this Mendelssohn symphony,” Seaman said. “It has a wonderful finish with the Bach chorale quoted, and, like all Mendelssohn, beautifully written for the orchestra.”