Symphony honors Chopin in fall concert

It's composer Frederic Chopin's 200th birthday this year, and the Merced Symphony Association is celebrating with one of his most beautiful pieces at its fall concert Saturday.

"It's one of the bigger concerts that we've done, and I'm really excited about it," Music Director Henrik Hansen said. "We honor Chopin with his Piano Concerto No. 2, which was actually his first. It was a work of youth. It is just bubbling with his beautiful spirit, and it's completely mature. It also has one of the most exquisite movements of all time. The beauty of that piece is absolutely extraordinary."

The piece will be performed by soloist Natsuki Fukasawa, who is on the artist faculty for the Orfeo International Music Festival in the Italian Alps and Calcap Chamber Music Workshop. She has also taught at Sacramento State University and St. Mary's College of Moraga. She is a Fulbright Scholar and has earned degrees from New York's Juilliard, Prague Academy in Czech Republic and University of Maryland.

"She is delightful as she performs one of Chopin's most technically demanding pieces," board member Joanna Browning said.

The second half of the concert will be Tchaikovsky's exquisite Symphony No. 5.

"It is his most lyrical symphony," Hansen said. "It has wonderful sweeping romantic melodies and an incredibly beautiful horn solo that is haunting and lush. It's a treat to get to do this piece that's very close to my heart."

Browning is thrilled to have a chance to present the concert in Merced.

"Performing a Tchaikovsky Symphony takes a large orchestra and the Symphony Board is excited to be able to bring this to its Merced audience," she said. "Symphony No. 5 is one of the most beautiful symphonies written. The audience will recognize melodies throughout and many beautiful instrumental themes. Even those who do not know classical music well will enjoy this music."