Off to a powerful beginning with the National Philharmonic

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Entertainment,Music,Marie Gullard

The National Philharmonic, with Music Director Piotr Gajewski at the helm, launches its new season this Saturday and Sunday at Strathmore with a rousing program titled "Beethoven: The Power of Three."

The evening's repertoire features the beloved composer's "Leonore Overture," the Symphony No. 3 in E flat Major ("Eroica") and his intense Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor. The latter showcases the dynamic talent of pianist Orli Shaham.

"They asked me to do the third," said Shaham, the acclaimed international pianist and sister of violinist Gil Shaham. "I haven't done it for a long time, and it's such an old friend."

Shaham explained that the concerto was one she played frequently early in her 20-year career and then stopped playing it for over a decade. Returning to it, as she recently has, she continues to discover its matchless nuances.

Onstage
Beethoven: The Power of Three
Where: The Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda
When: 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday
Info: $28 to $81; 301-581-5100; strathmore.org; nationalphilharmonic.org

"This is ... an incredibly original, powerful piece of music that has so many unique ideas and sounds and you don't want to lose any of that just because you played it a little too much in that short amount of time," she continued. "It's such a rich work, especially if you've left it awhile. I'm just so excited to be a part of it again."

She concedes, however, to the challenges inherent in the work -- actually in all five of Beethoven's concertos.

"It doesn't matter what you do -- there are certain aspects of [the Third Concerto] that never gets easier, not only in the difficulty of finger technique [but also] it's very emotional stuff to put out there publicly and it does take it out of you."

Of her top four favorite piano concertos to play for her own enjoyment, however, two of Brahms' works would be on that list. Still, Beethoven makes his mark.

"Frankly, the Brahms' C minor piano concerto could not have existed without the Beethoven three," she explained.

The all-Beethoven evening opens with his "Leonore Overture," composed in 1806 to preface the drama in his opera "Fidelio." The concert ends with the "Eroica" Symphony, which marked the composer's middle period, featuring powerful, large-scale works filled with emotional intensity.

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