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Symphony thrills on opening night of Portnoy’s last season

The heavy anticipation and delight of the audience is what pianist Marina Lomazov loves most about performing in a symphony orchestra.

“There is always a special hush in the hall before the start of a major work,” explained the internationally renowned musician.  “At the symphony concert, the music is always felt and thought of deeply and fully, and the energy of that kind of connection with the music transmutes to the audience.”

This past Tuesday evening, the University of South Carolina Symphony Orchestra kicked off its 2016-2017 Concert Series at the Koger Center with a special performance entitled “The Russian Romantics.”  Lomazov, a professor at the University of South Carolina, was the featured pianist for the second half of the performance.

Maestro Donald Portnoy is in his last season as the impressive conductor of the USC Symphony (photo provided).

Maestro Donald Portnoy is in his last season as the impressive conductor of the USC Symphony (photo provided).

The evening was particularly special because it was the opening night of Maestro Donald Portnoy’s last season conducting the USC Symphony Orchestra.  Maestro Portnoy led the symphony in a powerful performance of “Symphony No. 4 in F minor, op. 36” by Pyotr Ill’yich Tchaikovsky.  Guided by searing horns and sharp harmonies between the flutes and violins, the symphony’s rendition of the legendary piece was awe-inspiring, consuming the entire auditorium with its magnificent energy and passion.  Even the performance’s softer moments, such as the seemingly joyful transitions featuring lovely calls between sections of the orchestra, were still heated and fiercely performed by the students.  The piece was temperamental, ferocious, and triumphant, leaving the audience stunned and speechless.

After the jarring Tchaikovsky rendition, Lomazov joined the orchestra for the performance of Sergei Rachmanioff’s “Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, op 18.”  Her captivating piano carried the symphony through the dark tones of the beautifully melancholy piece, mesmerizing the audience with the bittersweet, regretful sounds of the more mellow moments of the night.  Poignant, tender, and at times morose, the performance ignited the stage with sounds of both loss and of promise, blending moments of musical precision that seemed both weightless and full.

Lomazov is an award-winning pianist who has performed all over North America, Asia, and Europe.  During her time at USC, she founded and now serves as the artistic director of the Southeastern Piano Festival. “[Music] is my safe haven and a source of endless challenges,” Lomazov remarked after Tuesday’s performance.

Portnoy has conducted orchestras throughout the United States, as well as in multiple European and Asian countries.  He founded the internationally recognized Conductors Institute and serves as the director of orchestral studies and conductor of the symphony at USC. “It’s been such a privilege to collaborate with him,” said Lomazov.  “He is an amazing musician and has built a legacy here at USC.  It was very special to share the stage with the USC symphony and Maestro Portnoy for his last season at USC [on opening night].”

Portnoy and the USC symphony have several more shows planned for their upcoming season, including a symphony of John Williams movie themes and a night of music by Hanson and Shostakovich.

According to Lomazov, the experience of attending a symphony orchestral performance is incomparable to attending other music shows.  “The lineup of music and soloists [for this season] looks great,” she said.  “There is a might of sound that comes from 50 plus musicians playing together that one cannot experience anywhere else.”

A performance schedule with a link to purchase tickets is available on www.kogercenterforthearts.com.

Pictured: Award-winning pianist Marina Lomazov dazzled audiences as the guest pianist for the USC Symphony on opening night Tuesday (photo provided).

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