ASO opens 50th season with three performances

ALBANY — The Albany Symphony Orchestra’s 50th anniversary season opening concerts will feature internationally renowned guzheng virtuoso Su Chang performing with the full orchestra in the Darton State College Theater on Sept. 28 at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

An encore performance will also be held in the Tift County High School Performing Arts Center on September 29 at 3 pm. as part of the ABAC Presents! Series.

The ASO has received a special grant from producer Hanyi, Inc. to provide the guest soloist at no cost. The grant covers her airfare from Beijing, accommodations, rehearsals and performances.

Chang will perform “Identity: Zhongshang Zhuang,” a striking and distinctive piece that combines the richness of the Western orchestra with the 3,800-year-old Chinese folk instrument, a zither ancestral to instruments such as the Japanese koto or Korean gayagaeum.

The Identity piece was commissioned in 2009 by Hanyi as an effort to combine the musical traditions of Western and Chinese culture in a piece that would be accessible to international audiences. American composer Michael Gordon Shapiro and Chinese producer/composer Victor Cheng collaborated to produce Identity. The piece’s stage history includes performances in the U.S., Canada and several cities in mainland China, most notably by Beijing’s China National Symphony Orchestra. Janen Music is now making the piece available to American orchestras for the first time.

“We were so excited when we were presented with the opportunity to perform Shapiro and Cheng’s work featuring Ms. Chang. How often do you get to collaborate with a world-class soloist and get financial assistance for doing so?,” said ASO music director and conductor Dr. Claire Fox Hillard.

This powerful piece is programmatic, evoking the story of a family separated by the Chinese civil war. The three movements correspond to the outbreak of war, the desolation of a former officer isolated from his family and the triumphant reunion generations later.

Ms. Chang began her study of the instrument at age six and has performed solo and in accompaniment to orchestras worldwide. Her notable engagements include being a featured soloist in the YouTube Symphony Orchestra’s 2010 concert in Sydney under the baton of Michael Tilson Thomas and a personal invitation from Oscar-winning composer Tan Dun to perform in the 2012 Zurich premiere of a new work. She has also performed with Grammy-winning artist Kitaro and tours internationally with the pop/Chinese folk ensemble, The Viva Girls.

She premiered the Identity concerto in 2010 under the baton of Case Scaglione of the New York Philharmonic and has been the soloist at every subsequent performance.

Eastern influences will be also be heard in the concert, billed as “East Meets West,” as the orchestra performs Hidemith’s Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber and von Weber’s Overture to Oberon.

Individual tickets to the Darton performances are $35 and $25, $22 for seniors 65 and over, and $10 for students with ID. Season ticket packages are also available. For more information, call 229-430-8933 or go to albanysymphony.org.

The ASO is a fully professional per service orchestra serving the southwest Georgia region with classical, pops, educational and special concerts. The symphony draws professional performers and artists from a 100-mile radius and offers these artists many opportunities to perform. Recognized for its innovative audience developmental efforts and diverse programming, the orchestra has received the League of American Orchestras and American Society of Composers Authors Publishers (ASCAP) awards on multiple occasions.