This preview provided by North Carolina Symphony.

When audience favorite Stephen Hough joins the North Carolina Symphony for its Opening Night concerts September 22-24, it will not just be concertgoers who are eager for his return appearance — the performances will also reunite the British pianist and NCS Music Director Grant Llewellyn, who have known each other and worked together since they were childhood classmates in Manchester, England. The two have a great mutual admiration for one another and audience members will benefit from their dynamic collaboration in Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 1.

“Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto is fresh and youthful, with plush melodies and fiery virtuosity,” says Llewellyn, noting that Hough is the perfect interpreter of the composer’s work. “Stephen Hough has a fantastic delicacy that reminds me of Rachmaninoff’s own recordings.”

London’s The Guardian agreed in reviewing Hough’s performance of the concerto with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. “Hough’s awesome pianism meant that the pyrotechnics were delivered with powerful force, but balanced by his poetic shaping of Rachmaninoff’s lyrical lines and a gossamer touch for the delicate filigree writing. This is a work that deserves to be heard more often, but few can get to its core as Hough does.”

NCS presents two theatrically-based works by Stravinsky on this program of all Russian composers. Petrouchka, composed between The Firebird and The Rite of Spring, evokes the story of a puppet who comes to life and struggles with the devastation of unrequited love. Stravinsky’s Circus Polka is a work with an almost unfathomable backstory: In 1942, the composer was asked by the legendary choreographer George Balanchine to create music to be “danced” by 50 elephants and 50 showgirls for an act in the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Stravinsky obliged with a piece that is bright and march-like, but not without his distinctive penetrating harmonies. The show was a smash hit, receiving 425 performances.

Glinka was one of the earliest champions of a nationalistic style in Russian music and the first Russian composer to receive widespread attention outside of his native land. His Overture to Ruslan and Ludmila reflects the triumph of the opera’s storyline, in which Ruslan rescues his bride-to-be from an evil dwarf. This energetic showpiece will open the program — and the Symphony’s 2016/17 season — on an exhilarating note.

The program is performed first at Memorial Hall at UNC-Chapel Hill and twice at Raleigh’s Meymandi Concert Hall. Returning Raleigh concertgoers will find significant renovations to Meymandi Concert Hall, including new carpeting and paint, new outdoor lighting, and a redesign of the box office to improve traffic flow. NCS looks forward to welcoming patrons to Chapel Hill and to its beautifully updated headquarter venue in Raleigh for this season’s Opening Night concerts.

The North Carolina Symphony expresses our appreciation to September 22 Concert Sponsor The Forest at Duke for their generous support.

Opening Night: Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 1

Thursday, September 22 at 7:30pm
Memorial Hall
UNC-Chapel Hill

Friday, September 23 & Saturday, September 24 at 8pm
Meymandi Concert Hall
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts

Glinka: Overture to Ruslan and Ludmila
Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 1
Stravinsky: Circus Polka
Stravinsky: Petrouchka

North Carolina Symphony
Grant Llewellyn, conductor
Stephen Hough, piano

Tickets: $18 – $76

Online at
By phone at 919.733.2750
In-person at 3700 Glenwood Ave, Raleigh, NC

About the North Carolina Symphony

Founded in 1932, the North Carolina Symphony holds more than 175 performances and events annually, reaching adults and schoolchildren in more than 90 North Carolina counties. An entity of the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, NCS employs 66 full-time professional musicians, and performs under the artistic leadership of Music Director Grant Llewellyn and Associate Conductor David Glover.

Based at the spectacular Meymandi Concert Hall at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Raleigh, the Symphony’s service across the state includes series in Chapel Hill, Fayetteville, New Bern, Southern Pines, and Wilmington, as well as Summerfest concerts at the outdoor Koka Booth Amphitheatre in Cary. NCS brings some of the world’s greatest artists to North Carolina, including Lang Lang, Stephen Hough, and Augustin Hadelich in the 2016/17 season.

Committed to engaging students across North Carolina, NCS conducts the most extensive education program of any U.S. orchestra. In alignment with the music curriculum set by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, the Symphony provides training and resources for teachers, sends small ensembles into classrooms, and presents full-orchestra Education Concerts experienced by more than 52,000 fourth and fifth graders each year. At the middle and high school levels, students have opportunities to work directly with NCS artists and perform for NCS audiences.

In spring 2017, NCS will appear at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., as one of four orchestras chosen for the inaugural year of SHIFT: A Festival of American Orchestras — an honor that recognizes the Symphony’s creative programming and innovative community partnerships.