Performing Arts

The Passion of Chopin

Soyeon Kate Lee

Sometimes passion is best expressed through music. On Earth Day, April 22, at 8 p.m., the Asheville Symphony Orchestra (ASO) brings The Passion of Chopin to the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium in Downtown Asheville. Featuring works by Romantic-era composers, the evening will spotlight Frédéric Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with guest solo pianist Soyeon Kate Lee.

“All three composers on our April program had a firm grasp on the art of choosing the perfect instruments for the right musical moments,” says ASO music director Daniel Meyer.

The evening opens with Claude Debussy’s delightful Petite Suite, which Meyer calls “one of the many French works originally written for piano that take advantage of the full palette of the orchestra.” Inspired by his patron—also his mistress—singer Marie- Blance Vasnier, the suite was originally written as a piano duet and later arranged for orchestra by Debussy’s colleague, Henri Büsser. Büsser’s orchestration prominently features the woodwinds alongside harp and strings. Themes within the piece’s four movements evoke playful revelry and wistful longing, nostalgia and sparkle.

Next is Chopin’s beloved Piano Concerto No. 2, featuring the aforementioned Lee, first prize winner of the 2010 Naumburg International Piano Competition and the 2004 Concert Artist Guild International Competition. The Korean-American pianist is a graduate of the Juilliard School and has been awarded the William Petschek Piano Debut Award at Lincoln Center and the Arthur Rubinstein Award. “Chopin’s Second Piano Concerto, in the hands of a rising virtuoso like Soyeon Kate Lee, is a perfect example of the beauty that can exist when the solo piano perfectly intertwines with the orchestra,” says Meyer.

The final work on the program is César Franck’s emotional Symphony in D minor—filled with yearning and capped by a triumphant final movement. “Franck’s symphony stands as a richly woven tapestry of emotion and musical ideas,” says Meyer, “at one turn deeply rigorous in its construction, yet also delectably fanciful in its saturated hues of Romantic-era color.” Upon its premiere in 1889, the symphony sparked controversy for blending German and French symphonic styles in the highly nationalist French musical landscape following the Franco-Prussian war. It bucked other symphonic trends of the time by comprising three rather than four movements, and featuring an English horn solo. Yet while its reception in France was rocky, it swiftly gained popularity in the rest of Europe and the United States.

The ASO performs and promotes symphonic music for the benefit, enjoyment and education of the people of Western North Carolina. It presents concerts in the 2,300-seat Thomas Wolfe Auditorium in Asheville’s U.S. Cellular Center. Related organizations include the Asheville Symphony Guild, Asheville Symphony Chorus, Asheville Symphonettes and education initiatives such as the Asheville Symphony Youth Orchestra, Music in the Schools, MusicWorks!, Spotlight on Young Musicians, Symphony Talks and pre-concert lectures.

Tickets are $22–$62 depending on seating section; reduced youth and student pricing is available. Single tickets and season ticket packages can be purchased at ashevillesymphony.org, by phone at 828.254.7046, or in person at the US Cellular Center box office at 87 Haywood Street. 

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