With two (really, three) notable guests, some gorgeous music and $20 tickets, the BNY Mellon Grand Classics "Rising Stars in Debut" show makes for as good a weekend as any to check out the PSO.
I saw it last night.
The rising stars include the award-winning, Mongolian-born young violinist Xiang Yu. Xiang, now studying in Boston, won first prize last year in the prestigious Yehudi Menuhin International Violin Competition; this weekend, he's the internationally celebrated soloist for the PSO's rendition of Prokofiev's Concerto No. 2 in G minor for violin.
It's a stunning 26-minute work; the Heinz Hall crowd liked Xiang's performance enough to demand an encore, for which he performed (solo) Bach's Adagio in G minor. He said it had been, in his childhood, the first piece he'd ever played on violin.
The PSO program opened, however, with "Radical Light," a 2007 work by the orchestra's current composer of the year, Steven Stucky. Stucky himself came on stage to briefly introduce the piece, which he called a "tone poem." The principal tone was a shimmering one, toward the high end of the violins but short of piercing, and true to the work's title evoking the spiritual air of daybreak.
The evening closed with Robert Schumann's Symphony No. 4 in D minor, Opus 120. It's a work alternately lush and exuberant (even somewhat chesty). As with the rest of the program, the orchestra was led by guest conductor Xian Zhang (the other "rising star" making her PSO debut). The Chinese-born Xian is a compact, animated figure, the soles of whose feet frequently leave the podium entirely. She's as much fun to watch as any conductor I've seen.
The bonus this weekend is that the PSO is offering a limited number of $20 tickets, available in all seating sections, for a savings of up to $73 a ticket. Call 412-392-4900 or see www.pittsburghsymphony.org, and keep handy the promo code 28164.
There's one more performance of this program, at 2:30 p.m. Sun., Oct. 23.