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Tomas Cohen Photography

*Limited Pavilion Seating*

Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2

The Philadelphia Orchestra
Orchestral Series
Thursday, July 13, 2023 at 6pm Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater

Winner of the 2021 International Chopin Piano Competition, Bruce Liu makes his Bravo! Vail debut performing Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2, in a program including Higdon’s Fanfare Ritmico and Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances—a work premiered by the Orchestra in 1941. 

The Philadelphia Orchestra's distinctive sound returns to Bravo! Vail for its annual residency in July. The Fabulous Philadelphians are admired for a legacy of innovation and known for their keen ability to capture the hearts and imaginations of audiences.

All artists, programs, and pricing are subject to change.​

Program Details

Yannick Nézet-Séguin, conductor
Bruce Liu, piano

RACHMANINOFF Symphonic Dances
RACHMANINOFF Piano Concerto No. 2

Fanfare Ritmico (1999-2000)

(6 minutes)


Fanfare Ritmico


Jennifer Higdon grew up in a counterculture family for whom “art happenings” and experimental film festivals were the norm. She taught herself to play the flute at the age of 15 and went on to earn an artist’s diploma in that instrument at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia and a Ph.D. in composition at the University of Pennsylvania. Winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in Music for her Violin Concerto, she taught for 27 years on the composition faculty at Curtis. Although she has written a number of choral and vocal pieces, as well as an opera, Higdon is principally an instrumental composer, having produced an impressive body of works for orchestra and for various chamber formulations. “My philosophy is simple and basic,” she has said. “The music has to sing—it has to speak—it has to communicate. If it doesn’t, there’s no point.”

Fanfare Ritmico, composed in 1999-2000, courses forth with the very active involvement of four percussionists playing 26 instruments, not counting timpani. “Fanfare Ritmico celebrates the rhythm and speed (tempo) of life,” she says. “Writing this work on the eve of the move into the new millennium, I found myself reflecting on how all things have quickened as time has progressed. Our lives now move at speeds much greater than what I believe anyone could have ever imagined in years past. Everyone follows the beat of his own drummer, and those drummers are beating faster and faster on many different levels. As we move along day to day, rhythm plays an integral part of our lives, from the individual heartbeat to the lightning speed of our computers. This fanfare celebrates that rhythmic motion, of man and machine, and the energy that permeates every moment of our being.”

Symphonic Dances, Op. 45 (1940)

(37 minutes)


Symphonic Dances, Op. 45 (37 minutes)
     Non allegro
     Andante con moto (Tempo di valse)
     Lento assai–Allegro vivace–Lento assai.
     Come prima–L’istesso tempo, ma agitato–Poco meno mosso–”Alliluya”


With the completion of his Third Symphony, in 1936, it appeared that Rachmaninoff had reached the end of his composing career. He had by then finished building a villa on Lake Lucerne and was trying to ease into retirement. The outbreak of World War II disrupted such plans, however, and he returned with his family to live in the United States—familiar territory, since he had largely resided in America since 1918. So it was that he spent the summer of 1940 at an estate on Long Island, where his final work, the Symphonic Dances, came into being.

He initially planned to name the piece Fantastic Dances, or perhaps to title the three movements “Noon,” “Twilight,” and “Midnight”—or, as his biographer Victor Seroff maintained, “Morning,” “Noon,” and “Evening,” meant as a metaphor for the three stages of human life. Rachmaninoff scrapped those ideas and settled instead on the more objective name of Symphonic Dances. The spirit of the dance does indeed inhabit this work, if in a sometimes mysterious or mournful way. As he was completing the piece he played it privately for his old friend Michel Fokine, the one-time choreographer of the Ballets Russes, who signaled his interest in using it for a ballet; regrettably, Fokine died in 1942 before he could make good on his intention.

Three dances make up this orchestral suite. The opening marchlike movement, powerful and assertive, includes in its coda a theme from Rachmaninoff’s First Symphony, which had come to grief so many years before—an encoded vindication of that early effort. A melancholy waltz follows, and then a finale that quotes Russian Orthodox liturgical chants and the Dies irae from the Roman Catholic Mass for the Dead.


(18 minutes)

Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18 (1900-01)

(36 minutes)


Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18
     Adagio sostenuto
     Allegro scherzando


Rachmaninoff was not an immediate standout at the Moscow Conservatory, but by the time he graduated, in 1892, he was deemed worthy of receiving the Great Gold Medal, which had been bestowed on only two students previously. He developed into a triple threat, respected as a gifted composer, a capable conductor, and one of his era’s supreme pianists. Long adored by audiences and dismissed by critics for the same reason—his music upheld the ideals of expressive Romanticism long after it had fallen out of official fashion—this year’s sesquicentennial of his birth is inviting a thorough reassessment of a composer whose appeal has remained stubbornly intact.

He nearly gave up composing following the failure of his First Symphony, in 1897, but a physician who was investigating psychological therapy through hypnosis helped steer him back on track. Rachmaninoff’s therapy focused on achievable projects—an a cappella chorus, a love duet for an opera—and then, in 1900, two movements of a piano concerto that had been on the back burner for several years. These were received enthusiastically at their premiere that December. “Rachmaninoff appeared as both pianist and composer,” a journal reported. “Most interesting were two movements from an unfinished Second Piano Concerto. This work contains much poetry, beauty, warmth, rich orchestration, healthy and buoyant creative power. Rachmaninoff’s talent is evident throughout.” Within a few months he supplied the concerto’s missing first movement and the “unfinished” concerto became the finished, ever-popular Piano Concerto No. 2. He went into something of a panic just prior to playing the premiere of the complete concerto; but the public’s acclaim convinced him that he was wrong to discount his abilities.

Guest Artists

Yannick Nézet-Séguin


Bruce Liu


The Philadelphia Orchestra is admired for a legacy of innovation and known for its keen ability to capture the hearts and imaginations of audiences. This Orchestra’s distinctive sound returns to Bravo! Vail for its 16th residency in 2023.

All artists, programs, and pricing are subject to change.

Presented At

Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater