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A special Steinway piano featured in CMO fall concert

This Steinway piano, owned by Chilliwack
This Steinway piano, owned by Chilliwack's Glen Cuthbertson (pictured), is nearly 100 years old and was restored by him when he bought it in 1996. Cuthbertson customized the piano both acoustically (by adding a Wapin bridge to enrich its sound) and cosmetically. The piano will be used on Nov. 17 during the Chilliwack Metropolitan Orchestra's concert at the Cultural Centre.
— image credit: JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS

The Chilliwack Metropolitan Orchestra presents Russian Masterworks on Nov. 17 at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre.

Polish-born concert pianist Krystyna Tuka will be the orchestra's featured guest soloist, performing the enduringly popular Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2.

"The mighty Chilliwack Metropolitan Orchestra will be tackling three giants of Russian composition, Glinka, Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky," said CMO member and spokesperson Anne Fleming.

The fall concert, under the baton of Maestro Johan Louwersheimer, will also showcase a very special Steinway grand piano, which has been graciously loaned to the orchestra for the evening by the local owner and musician, Glen Cuthbertson.

"At almost nine feet in length, this piano can easily fill a large concert hall and hold its own with a full symphony," said Fleming.

It is considered the flagship instrument of Steinway and Sons.

In fact, the Steinway D-274 is the piano of choice for many concert performers, and this one, built in 1915, and lovingly restored by Cuthbertson of Chilliwack, and will moved to the main stage for the performance.

Rachmaninoff became a "Steinway artist" and would only perform on a Steinway.

"He purchased two Steinways for himself in New York and they were often played in duets by Rachmaninoff and his good friend Vladimir Horowitz. Coincidently, the Cuthbertson piano is serial numbered between the two Rachmaninoff pianos."

The Polish-born pianist Tuka, with a master's degree in piano performance, has studied in both Poland and Paris and is an international guest soloist. She has won numerous prestigious piano competitions and is currently teaching at the Vancouver Academy of Music.

The concerto she'll play was composed by Rachmaninoff in 1900 and the complete work was first performed by the composer in November of 1901.

This marked the end of his clinical depression after critics savaged his first concerto, and writer's block and he dedicated it to the doctor who helped him regain his confidence, noted Fleming.

The Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto can be enjoyed by both classical music aficionados and by less experienced listeners, she said.

Two well-known melodies that pay tribute to the concerto appear in the song All By Myself by Eric Carmen, and Empty Arms made popular by Frank Sinatra.

Also on the evening’s program will be the Ruslan and Ludmilla Overture by Mikhail Glinka and the Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 5.

Glinka, known as the father of Russian composition in the early romantic period, managed to blend Western and Russian styles with Russian folk themes.

Pyotr Tchaikovsky openly acknowledged his debt to Glinka.

Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 5 has been described as "darkly Russian with broad, arching melodies." The third movement balletic theme reminds some listeners of the waltz from Sleeping Beauty.

Russian Masterworks concert by Chilliwack Metropolitan Orchestra, Nov. 17, tickets $25 and students $15 on the main stage at the Cultural Centre, 7:30 p.m., at the box office or 604-391-SHOW.

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