The upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing isn’t the only place to see gold medal performers this February. Greater Boston audiences will also have the chance to witness the Boston symphonic debuts of the two recent International Tchaikovsky Competition Gold Medalists for cello: Romanian-born Andrei Ioniță, the competition’s 2015 winner, and Boston-bred Zlatomir Fung, the 2019 winner, with the distinction of being the first American in four decades and the youngest ever to earn first place. The two cellists will be the featured soloists on February 6 and 27, respectively, at the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra (BPO) and the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra (BPYO) concerts at Symphony Hall, conducted by Maestro Benjamin Zander.
The Tchaikovsky Competition is a major event in the international music community, propelling some of the world’s most gifted performing artists to international fame. Starting in 1958, the competition is held once every four years.
“The Boston Philharmonic is committed to the discovery and engagement of the world’s top musicians, who are new to Boston audiences,” says Zander. Violinists Stefan Jackiw and Patricia Kopatchinskaja are just two examples of world-class musicians who made their Boston debuts with the BPO.
Ioniță will be the featured soloist on Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1 at the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra concert on Sunday, February 6. The Times of London called Ioniță “one of the most exciting cellists to have emerged for a decade.” Maestro Zander added, “Although a virtual unknown at the outset of the Tchaikovsky Competition, he took the musical world by storm with his incredible technique and inspiring interpretation, as well as his ability to captivate the audience.”
Fung will perform with the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra on Sunday, February 27, in Elgar’s contemplative Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 85. At only 22 years old, Fung has already proven to be a star among the next generation of world-class musicians, performing with orchestras and giving recitals throughout the world in 2021-22. If you’ve ever listened to the Boston-based, NPR radio program From the Top, you might recognize his name: he’s performed on the show six times.
The Boston Philharmonic Orchestra concert on February 6 will also delight with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 in E Flat Major, “Eroica,” and the Prelude to Khovanshchina, Mussorgsky’s last opera. Zander will provide one of his “Guide to the Music” talks prior to the concert, which deepens the audience’s understanding of the music they will hear.
Beloved by audiences, Beethoven’s Eroica is considered one of the hardest symphonies to interpret. “I have something new to share with the audience about the Eroica, forged out of 50 years of study and performance,” explains Zander. “Anyone who loves Beethoven and classical music won’t want to miss this concert.”
Championed by many composers, including Rimsky-Korsakov, Stravinsky, and Shostakovich, the concert’s Mussorgsky overture “is a marvelous opening to a concert, representing an evocation of dawn over the river Moscow—a perfect curtain raiser to the most dramatic Russian cello concerto,” according to Zander.
The Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra on February 27 opens with Ravel’s La Valse, an incremental deconstruction of the Viennese Waltz, and concludes with Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5. “It was the piece that placed Shostakovich front and center on the world’s musical stage, proclaimed him as the foremost composer of the Soviet Union in the 1930s, and by giving the illusion of placating the authorities, probably saved his life,” proclaimed Zander. “Since then, it has come to be regarded as music’s greatest symbol of the power of the artist to raise his voice in protest in even the darkest of times.”
As one of the greatest concert halls in the world, audience members would be best served by experiencing these remarkable musicians in person at Symphony Hall, but the Boston Philharmonic is also offering a high-quality live stream of both concerts to be simultaneously enjoyed at home instead.
The rest of the Boston Philharmonic’s 2021-22 season promises no less exciting performers. The Boston Philharmonic Orchestra’s final concert on April 8 features mezzo-soprano Susan Platts, a British-born Canadian who worked with Jessye Norman as a Fellow of the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative, and Chorus Pro Musica, performing as guests on Mahler’s Symphony No. 3. Alexander Korsantia (who was born in Tbilisi, Georgia, but now makes Boston his home), the gold medal winner at the Artur Rubinstein Piano Master Competition, performs with the BPYO at their final concert on May 6.