September 06, 2007

Acclaimed pianist Emanuel Ax performs April 1 Symphony orchestra season will thrill music lovers

by Andrea Hahn


CARBONDALE, Ill. — Southern Illinois University Carbondale's School of Music announces an exciting 2007-08 Southern Illinois Symphony Orchestra schedule, featuring a grand finale of superstar proportion.

Emanuel Ax, widely declared one of the world's greatest pianists, a virtuoso with performances at the most celebrated venues and with every major symphony in the world, comes to Carbondale for an April 1st appearance at SIUC's own Shryock Auditorium. Ax brings his interpretation of Beethoven's "Emperor" Piano Concerto, a performance which, when given with the New York Philharmonic, earned lavish praise from the New York Times.

"It is a huge honor and opportunity for the Southern Illinois Symphony Orchestra to perform with one of the most acclaimed pianists in the world today," Edward Benyas, orchestra music director and music director designate for the Chicago Chamber Orchestra, said. "It seems almost every time I turn on public television, I see Emanuel Ax performing. This will certainly be a unique opportunity for the students in our orchestra to perform on the same stage with an artist of this caliber, and a unique opportunity for our community to experience his artistry, without having to travel to Chicago or St. Louis."

Ax has seven Grammy Awards to his credit, three of them for recordings with his long-time collaborator, the famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Ax won two more Grammies for recordings of Haydn piano sonatas. Though he is critically acclaimed for performances of Beethoven, Chopin and Schoenberg, Ax also is known for promoting more recent composers such as John Adams, John Corigliano and Peter Lieberson.

A special evening to welcome Ax to Southern Illinois doubles as one of two special fund-raising events for the orchestra this year. "An Evening to Celebrate Emanuel Ax" is a black-tie, gourmet dinner hosted by SIU President Glenn Poshard and his wife, Jo, at Stone Center on March 29. The $500 ticket includes Gold Circle seating for the performance, chamber music by Maestro Benyas and other members of the SIUC School of Music, an exclusive opportunity to meet Maestro Ax after the April 1 performance, and a special commemorative gift. Reservation information follows the symphony schedule.

A Season to Remember

Southern Illinois Symphony Orchestra 2007-2008

Tuesday, Sept. 25 – Great Classics and Barta

SIUC's own Michael Barta, a finalist in the prestigious Tchaikovsky Competition and a former First Violinist of the Kodály String Quartet, performs Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto, a must-hear for violin lovers. The program includes music by Haydn and Rossini as well. Tickets are also available for a gala opening night reception at the Stone Center. The reception is from 5 to 7 p.m. SIU President Glenn Poshard and his wife, Jo, host. Tickets are $25 and reservations are required. Proceeds benefit the orchestra.

Wednesday, Oct. 31 – Halloween Pops

This "come in costume" concert is an annual tradition for the orchestra, and offers a fun, family friendly atmosphere. The orchestra presents the children's classic, "Peter and the Wolf." Joining the musicians for the evening are student and faculty individual and ensemble performances, including the wind ensemble, concert choir, jazz band and Marjorie Lawrence Opera Theater. The symphony also welcomes special guest, Saluki Hall of Fame broadcaster, Mike Reis. All the musicians will be in costume and they invite the entire audience, young and old, to wear costumes as well.

Friday and Saturday, Nov. 9-10 – Puccini Operas

It's a Puccini double-bill with two operas each evening. First is the tragedy, "Suor Angelica," sung in Italian, followed by the comedy "Gianni Schicchi," sung in English. SIUC's Tim Fink, director of the Marjorie Lawrence Opera Theater at SIUC and head of the opera and music theater area of the school, directs both performances –– the latter featuring School of Music Assistant Professor of Voice and opera veteran David Dillard in the title role. Supertitles help keep the audience up to speed for the performances.

Friday, Nov. 30 – Sing-Along Messiah

This holiday concert offers the community a chance to sing with the symphony. SIUC professors Jeanine Wagner and David Dillard and alumnus Randall Black perform on stage, the orchestra is in the pit, and the audience is seated according to voice type. Those who want to sing may bring a musical score. Those who prefer to listen are welcome as well.

Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2008 – Stars of Altgeld

This annual performance featuring winners of the School of Music Solo Competition and orchestra members gives the community a chance to see stars in the making.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008 – Emanuel Ax

Piano master Emanuel Ax comes to SIUC, presenting an extraordinary opportunity to see a great musician in the relatively intimate setting of Shryock Auditorium. Ax will perform Beethoven's "Emperor" piano concerto with the orchestra –– a thrilling evening for everyone, from musicians to audience.

Special Events

Tuesday, Sept. 25 –– Gala Opening Night

An opening reception is traditional for the orchestra's season launch. The reception is from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Stone Center, immediately before the first performance of the season. The $25 ticket price includes wine and hors d'oeuvres. All proceeds go to support the orchestra. Reservations are required –– call 618/453-3004.

Saturday, March 29, 2008 –An Evening to Celebrate Emanuel Ax

Join SIU President Glenn Poshard and his wife, Jo, to welcome Emanuel Ax to Southern Illinois. This black tie evening is an exclusive opportunity to meet Maestro Ax and to support the orchestra at the same time. The $500 ticket includes dinner, chamber music by Maestro Benyas and other members of the SIUC School of Music, a special gift and Gold Circle seating for the Emanuel Ax performance on April 1. Reserve tickets at 618/453-3004.

Klassics for Kids Concerts

Klassics for Kids free concerts are a great once-a-month Tuesday tradition. Held in Altgeld Hall, the concerts are designed to introduce young children to classical music. Concerts are at 10 a.m. in Altgeld Room 112 on Oct. 9, Nov. 6, Dec. 4, Feb. 5, March 4 and April 1. Look for more Klassics for Kids events during the 2008 Southern Illinois Music Festival.

Season tickets include all regular symphony events. Season tickets are $142, just $40 for students. Individual tickets are $15 ($6 for students) for Halloween Pops and Sing Along Messiah, $19 ($6 for students) for Great Classics and Barta, Puccini operas and Stars of Altgeld. The Emanuel Ax performance is $55 ($10 for students).

Purchase season tickets at, in person at the SIU Arena ticket office of by calling 618/453-2000. Purchase individual tickets in advance at the SIU Arena or Student Center ticket offices or at Shryock Auditorium the day of the performance.

Emmanuel Ax's appearance is underwritten by SIUC Student Fine Arts Activity Fees.