Orchestra show spotlights Russia

The Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra will open 2011 with an all-Russian program, "Russian Rhapsody," at 8 p.m. Jan. 16 and 17 at First Presbyterian Church on Hilton Head Island.

The concert, under Music Director and Conductor Mary Woodmansee Green, showcases the return of the 2010 Hilton Head Island International Piano Competition winner Lukas Vondracek.

He will join the orchestra to play Sergei Rachmaninoff's "Third Piano Concerto." Completing the concert will be Reinhold Gliere's "Sailors Dance" and Peter Tchaikovsky contemporary Vasily Kalinnikov's "First Symphony."


Born in Opava, Czech Republic, Vondracek's musical ability was recognized at age 2 by his parents, both professional pianists. He gave his first concert at age 4, and now, in his mid-20s, he has visited more than 25 different countries giving more than 900 concerts. His first international tour was at the age of 10, when he performed at various festivals in the United Kingdom and the United States. In the intervening years, he gave many solo recitals and concerto performances throughout his home country and abroad.

Vondracek will also perform recitals at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 21 at the University of South Carolina Beaufort's Center for the Arts on Carteret Street in Beaufort and 5 p.m. Jan. 23 at Lowcountry Presbyterian Church on Simmonsville Road in Bluffton.


Rachmaninoff wrote his "Third Concerto" during the summer of 1909 in anticipation of his first tour of the United States. Most recently, the concerto figured prominently in the 1996 film "Shine," based on the life of Australian pianist David Helfgott.


The "Music & the Dance" highlight of the program is Gliere's "Sailors Dance." His 1927 ballet "The Red Poppy" is probably his most performed work and the "Sailors Dance" the best known excerpt.


Kalinnikov is a name that most American concertgoers will not recognize, but in his native Russia he is quite popular. His "First Symphony" was performed in Kiev in 1897 and was popular in Europe and America during the first half of the 20th century. Rarely performed in the U.S. now, it continues to be heard frequently in Russia.