One of the most famed Arabian stories comes to life, with a bit of a symphonic twist, when Czech conductor Jakub Hrua leads the Houston Symphony in a performance of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade. Also appearing on the program is Russian pianist Denis Kozhukhin performing Prokofiev’s virtuosic Piano Concerto No. 2.

Scheherazade is the story of a sultan who takes a new wife every day, beheading the old one in the process, and the clever young woman who devises a way to avoid the death sentence. In nightly storytelling sessions, she enchants the sultan with the adventures of Sinbad, Ali Baba and Aladdin, always careful to leave her story unfinished. Eager to hear the ending, the king lets her live another day. And then another. And another. Rimsky-Korsakov’s symphonic suite echoes the burly, blusterous voice of the sultan and the soft, mesmerizing voice of Scheherazade.

Winner of the 2010 Queen Elisabeth Competition, Kozhukhin is among the few young artists who approach Prokofiev’s challenging Piano Concerto No. 2 with any critical success. The piece, written in memory of a close friend who committed suicide, has a wild, chaotic temperament. Fiery and modernistic (some would say even jarring), the concerto received mixed reactions when it premiered in 1913. It’s so technically complex, even Prokofiev reportedly had difficulty in performing it. Kozhukhin participates in a pre-concert discussion with Houston Public Media’s Zoe Miller.

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 $25 to $130.

Denis Kozhukhin shown above
Oct. 17-18, 8 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 19, 2:30 p.m., 2014

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Angelica Leicht
Contact: Angelica Leicht