André Watts Plays Rachmaninoff

There’s an interesting backstory to the piano concerto that is the focus of the Houston Symphony’s concert André Watts Plays Rachmaninoff. The Russian pianist and composer had fallen into a deep depression after the critical failure of his first symphony (the work later went on to much acclaim). Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in Cm, Op. 18 was considered brilliant at its 1901 premiere, a signal the composer had fully recovered.

The concerto has been called “among the most beautiful music in the world” and is one of the most popular among Watts’s repertoire. There’s an extended clarinet solo in the second movement that will be played by symphony member Thomas LeGrand. According to him, “It is a true masterwork and it’s absolutely beautiful, especially in the hands of a really fine pianist and a good orchestra.”

LeGrand goes on to say that while the backstory is interesting, it isn’t necessary for an audience to know it in order to appreciate the piece. “I think the time Rachmaninoff was going through at that moment in his personal life is very evident in his music. And I think it speaks without the story. [The] music speaks for itself very clearly, [with] the beautiful, radiant quality…the excitement. It’s really a very uplifting piece.”

8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Jones Hall for the Performing Arts, 615 Louisiana. For information, call 713‑224‑7575 or visit houstonsymphony.org. $25 to $130.

Photo by Steve J. Sherman
Sept. 19-20, 8 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 21, 2:30 p.m., 2014

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Olivia Flores Alvarez