Maryland Symphony Orchestra will wrap up its 30th season with a big star and a big concerto

April 18, 2012|By KATE COLEMAN |
  • Pianist Yuliya Gorenman will perform Rachmaninoffs challenging Piano Concerto No. 3 with the Maryland Symphony Orchestra at concerts on Saturday, April 21, and Sunday, April 22.
Submitted photo

This weekend, the Maryland Symphony Orchestra will present the grand finale of its 30th anniversary season, a season marked by bold programs and appreciative audiences.

Music Director Elizabeth Schulze has not lowered the bar for this weekend’s celebration, “From Russia with Love.”

Pianist Yuliya Gorenman will perform Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3, a work Schulze called “one of the most difficult and admired works in the repertoire.”

Gorenman agrees.

“Simply put, there is nothing harder,” she said during a phone conversation on her way home to Silver Spring, Md., from American University in Washington, D.C. “It’s long. It’s physically exhausting. As far as technical challenges, there is nothing like it in the piano repertoire.”

Despite the challenges, Gorenman called the concerto one of her favorite pieces. She performed its first movement when she was 15.

“I had no fear,” she said. “Still don’t.”

Gorenman performed the concerto with the National Symphony Orchestra in 1997. Schulze conducted.

“It’s going to be a wonderful reunion,” Gorenman said.

Born in Odessa, Ukraine, and raised in Kazakhstan, Gorenman started piano lessons at age 7. Her mother was her first teacher. She attended the St. Petersburg Conservatory, and, while still a student, performed throughout the former Soviet Union.

After immigrating to the United States in 1989, she studied at the San Francisco Conservatory and then at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore with Leon Fleischer.

Gorenman first achieved international acclaim as a prizewinner of the Queen Elisabeth Competition in Belgium in 1995. Since then, she has been invited to perform solo, chamber and orchestral concerts throughout the world, according to press information.

Gorenman’s repertoire — check it out at — is huge. She said she’s fought her whole life not to be pigeonholed into performing just Russian music.

“It’s crazy,” she said with a laugh. “The biggest chunk of my repertoire is actually Beethoven. ...

“Don’t get me wrong. I love Russian music passionately. It’s part of my DNA. But I wanted to make sure that I can be taken seriously in every other repertoire.”

Last year, Gorenman achieved a “lifelong dream” by completing the Gorenman Beethoven Project. She performed the complete cycle of all 32 of Beethoven’s piano sonatas in a series of eight solo recitals at American University, where she is professor of piano and musician in residence. She teaches classes and tutors individual lessons at the university and also has a private studio.

Gorenman said teaching informs her playing. Usually, she said, a pianist plays something instinctively, but when the artist has to make it clear to somebody else, there has to be a logical basis. “My God, I’ve played this piece for 10 years and I never noticed this,” she said she has said.

The late musicologist Nicholas Slonimsky has been credited with calling Gorenman “a pianist without fear.” Gorenman called the description “pretty accurate.”

A lot of what artists do is to conquer their natural fear of performing in public, she said.

“You’re completely exposed. You have to trust your mind, your body to do a superhuman thing right there on the spot,” she said.

It takes discipline and character and willpower, she added, “Frankly, you have to be daring and not have any fear.”

She called a concert last fall one of the most “heroic” she’s ever played.

Gorenman wanted to dedicate the all-Bach recital to the memory of her mother, to whom she was extremely close and whose funeral had taken place five days earlier.

“It took all my willpower to do it. And it was one of the most special evenings of my life,” she said.

Her life is busy — very busy. She performs, she teaches, she’s a recording artist and a mom. Gorenman and her husband have two 5 1/2-year-old children, who are adopted and, though not biologically related, have birthdays a week apart. They also have Ludwig, an Airedale puppy.

“I love life, so I like to experiment with different facets of it,” Gorenman said. “I love deep-sea fishing with all my heart, and I’m good at it, too.”

She also loves cooking, travel, reading, tango dancing and “lots more.”

How does she do it all? She’ll stay up until 2 or 3 a.m., practicing while husband, kids and dog sleep. “Until it’s done,” she wrote in a late-night email. “Either it’s done right or not at all,” she added. But “it” is done with joy.

“Why do it — music and life — if you are not enjoying every second of it?” she wrote.

Gorenman plans to enjoy her performances in Hagerstown.

“I am so looking forward to this concert, I cannot even tell you how excited I am,” she said.

Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 2 will conclude the concert, bringing the season to a “truly grand valedictory close,” Schulze wrote in the MSO’s Bravo magazine.

She added an assessment of the MSO and a promise for its future: “Three decades of excellence and service to our community — and we’re just getting started!”

If you go ...       

WHAT: Maryland Symphony Orchestra presents “From Russia with Love”

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday, April 21, and 3 p.m. Sunday, April 22

WHERE: The Maryland Theatre, 21 S. Potomac St., downtown Hagerstown

COST: Tickets cost $15 to $49 for adults and may be purchased by calling 301-797-4000; online at; in person at the MSO office, 30 W. Washington St., downtown Hagerstown.

The Maryland Theatre box office opens 90 minutes before MSO concerts. Students in grades one through 12 will be admitted free. Student rush tickets are available for higher education students (no reservations accepted) at The Maryland Theatre box office before each performance for $5. Seat selection will be at the discretion of box-office personnel.

MORE: Program notes and audio clips of the musical selections are available at  

AND MORE: Music Director Elizabeth Schulze and the guest artist will talk about the program and composers one hour before Saturday and Sunday’s performances during Prelude. The half-hour presentation is free for ticket holders.

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