Before Montreal-born conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin introduced classical pianist Bruce Liu to the Gerald R. Ford Amphiteater stage Thursday night in Vail, he told the audience, “One shining light has gone now into the sky; a new star is coming.”
It was a fitting introduction for a concert held one day after the passing of Andre Watts, the first internationally famous Black concert pianist. Watts began his six-decade-long career performing as a 10-year-old with the Philadelphia Orchestra — then under the baton of Eugene Ormandy — a relationship which continued, uninterrupted, with the group through Nézet-Séguin’s 2008 debut. That wasn’t the only serendipitous element in the Philadelphia Orchestra’s penultimate performance within its weeklong residency, which ends Friday with Mozart’s Requiem.
“The coincidence is almost overwhelming emotionally because the piece we played together was Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto,” Nézet-Séguin continued as an audible hush fell over the packed venue. “So, this resonates very personally and as you can understand, this entire concert and especially this performance, we all have Andre on our hearts.”
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