National Philharmonic presents an evening of Prokofiev

Entertainment,Music,Marie Gullard

Award-winning pianist Brian Ganz takes a break this weekend from his Chopin project to perform with the National Philharmonic in Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 3, led by the orchestra's associate conductor, Victoria Gau. The concert takes place at Strathmore on Saturday evening.

"This is one of the great works of the 20th century, [and Prokofiev] is absolutely one of the finest composers that ever lived," said Ganz, who has made a decade's commitment to perform every composition in the Chopin canon. "The Piano Concerto No. 3 is sort of an epic journey, incredible, with beautiful lyricism, and a wonderful use of irony and sardonic humor."

Ganz, the artist-in-residence at St. Mary's College of Maryland, as well as a faculty member of Baltimore's Peabody Conservatory of Music, first learned the Prokofiev piece as a teenager and performed it in an international piano competition. He considers it a "coming home experience," like visiting an old friend. Still, he explains the piece is not without its challenges.

"It's a hard concerto," he continued. "It's very acrobatic and all over the piano with lots of big chords. There are some ensemble nuances to be alert for at all times ... so yes, it's certainly a challenging concerto but immensely gratifying multidimensional kind of listening experience."

National Philharmonic Orchestra
Where: Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda
When: 8 p.m. Saturday; preconcert lecture 6:45 p.m.
Info: $28 to $81, children 7 to 17 free; 301-581-5100;

Of the five piano concertos Prokofiev wrote, the third is the most popular, taking the composer 10 years to write. He began in 1911 and finished the piece in 1921 at the age of 30. It is believed that, because it was written over such a long period of time, it morphed into his masterpiece. It is a mature work, filled with dissonance but also very lyrical and covering a wide range of emotional feeling.

The all-Prokofiev program includes the composer's "Lieutenant Kije Suite" and "Alexander Nevsky Suite," which was written as a score for the 1938 historical drama, "Alexander Nevsky." The concert features mezzo-soprano Magdalena Wor and the National Philharmonic's all-volunteer Chorale.

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