LSM Newswire

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Hometown pianist Avan Yu plays Rachmaninoff at the Orpheum, and on Tour with the VSO

Vancouver BC – Vancouver’s own piano virtuoso and long-time VSO friend, Avan Yu, performs Rachmaninoff’s thrilling Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini from April 25 to 27 at the Orpheum Theatre. Bramwell Tovey leads the orchestra in Debussy’s Prélude à l’après midi d’un faune and Stravinsky’s Petrouchka.

“(Avan Yu) has killer fingers and what’s more, he has a definite ear for tone.”

- The Vancouver Sun

In addition to his three Orpheum performances on VSO subscription series, Mr. Yu will accompany the VSO on its Central Canada Tour from May 1 to 4, 2009 as featured soloist. The tour was planned around an invitation from the National Arts Centre in Ottawa as part of BC Scene, a celebration of the arts and cultural scene in British Columbia. The tour will take the orchestra to Québec City, Ottawa, Toronto and Montréal.

Last month, Avan Yu embarked on a two-week concert tour in Spain. He gave successful recitals in Vitoria, Seville, Peñaranda de Bracamonte, Gijón, Oviedo, Avilçes, and Santander. The last time the pianist was in Spain was in August 2008, when he won the Silver Medal and the Audience Prize at the 16th Paloma O’Shea Santander International Piano Competition. Launched in 1974, the Paloma O’Shea Santander International Piano Competition takes place every three years and has become one of the most important piano competitions in the world today. In a span of less than two weeks, the contestants had to play five different concerts, including two concertos with orchestras as well as a chamber concert with the Casals Quartet.

At age 21, Canadian pianist Avan Yu has already performed in recital and with orchestras on four continents, captivating audiences with his extraordinary musicianship and ability. He is the only pianist to win first prize in both the junior and senior divisions of the Missouri Southern International Piano Competition. He made his debut with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra at the age of fourteen, and in October of this season, made his successful New York debut at the Carnegie Weill Recital Hall. Mr. Yu first came to national attention by taking first prize at the Canadian Chopin Competition at the age of 17, after having won the Canadian Music Competition in both 2001 and 2002.


PricewaterhouseCoopers Masterworks Silver Series & Beltone Symphony Sundays Series:

Great Romantics: Rachmaninoff, Debussy and Stravinsky

Saturday & Monday, April 25 & 27, 8pm, Orpheum Theatre

Bramwell Tovey, conductor

Avan Yu, piano*

Debussy Prélude à l’après midi d’un faune

Rachmaninoff Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini*

Stravinsky Petrouchka

Tickets for April 25 & 27: $25 to $78.50 (Student, Senior and Subscriber discounts available)

Tickets for April 26: $20 to $56 (Student, Senior and Subscriber discounts available)

Tickets available by phone at 604.876.3434 or online at

Generously Supported By:

Masterworks Silver Series Sponsor: PricewaterhouseCoopers

April 25 Concert Sponsor: Borden Ladner Gervais LLP

Video Screen Sponsor: TELUS

Video screen presentations created and produced by students and staff of digital video productions at Columbia Academy.

CBC Radio 2 will record Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini for Sunday Afternoon in Concert

Symphony Sundays Series Sponsor: Beltone


Bramwell Tovey, conductor

A musician of striking versatility, Bramwell Tovey is acknowledged around the world for his artistic depth and his warm, charismatic personality on the podium. Tovey's career as a conductor is uniquely enhanced by his work as a composer and pianist, lending him a remarkable musical perspective. His tenures as music director with the Vancouver Symphony, Luxembourg Philharmonic and Winnipeg Symphony Orchestras have been characterized by his expertise in operatic, choral, British and contemporary repertoire.

The 2008-09 season holds many highlights for Tovey. In the fall of his ninth season with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, the conductor takes the ensemble on tour to China and South Korea with guest artist Hillary Hahn. The first orchestra from Canada to perform in China in 30 years, the tour is capped by a performance at the Beijing Music Festival—another first for a Canadian symphony. Upon returning to Vancouver, Tovey leads the orchestra through an in-depth Brahms Festival, featuring all four symphonies, the two piano concertos and the violin concerto. The Brahms Violin concerto is performed with violinist James Ehnes who, along with the VSO, won both a GRAMMY Award and a Juno Award in 2007 for a CBC recording of violin concertos by Walton, Korngold and Barber. Other special guest artists during the season include violinist Joshua Bell as well as a joint performance by celebrated vocalists Samuel Ramey and Frederica von Stade.

Recently branded the "...the hottest hot-weather conductor in America right now..." by The Baltimore Sun, Tovey continues both his second season as Principal Guest Conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, and his sixth season as founding host and conductor of the New York Philharmonic's Summertime Classics series at Avery Fisher Hall in summer 2009. The orchestras recently co-commissioned him to write a piece, the well-received Urban Runway, which receives its Canadian premiere this season.

An esteemed guest conductor, Tovey has worked with orchestras in Europe and the UK including the London Philharmonic, London Symphony, Frankfurt Radio Orchestra as well as the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra which he revisits this season. Tovey's other debuts include performances with the Ulster and Helsingborg Orchestras and Opera North. He also makes his Australian debut in fall 2008 with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and guest artist Christian Tetzlaff. In North America, along with his work with the New York and Los Angeles Philharmonics, Tovey has made guest appearances with the orchestras of Baltimore, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Seattle, Montreal as well as ongoing performances with Toronto, where he conducts this season.

Prior to his music directorship in Vancouver, Tovey spent twelve years as music director of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, where he founded its highly regarded New Music Festival. A significant milestone in the ensemble's exploration of new music, the festival premiered more than 250 works by diverse international and Canadian composers under Tovey's leadership, with every performance broadcast on Canada's CBC Radio.

During his four years as the music director of the Luxembourg Philharmonic, from 2002 to 2006, Tovey led three successful tours in Europe, the Far East and the eastern United States, traveling to China, Korea, Germany, Austria, Italy, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Holland and Belgium. In 2004, Tovey and the orchestra were awarded the "Orphée d'Or" of the Academie Lyrique Francaise, for their critically praised recording of Jean Cras' opera, Polyphème. The following year, in celebration of the opening of Luxembourg's new Philharmonic Hall, Tovey conducted the Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra and the Europa Academie Choir in the world premiere of Penderecki's 8th Symphony, composed especially for the occasion.

Renowned as a choral conductor, Tovey has performed works ranging from Mahler's Symphony No. 8 to Bach's Mass in B Minor. In opera, his repertoire includes works by Puccini, Strauss, Mozart, Menotti, Poulenc, Britten and Stravinsky. In 2004, he premiered a new opera by John Estacio, jointly commissioned by the Banff Centre and the Calgary Opera, which he reprised for the National Arts Centre in Ottawa in 2005.

With a profound commitment to new music, Tovey has established himself as a formidable composer and is the first artist to win a Juno Award in both conducting and composing. He has been commissioned by the Calgary Opera to compose the company's third original full-length opera. Written with librettist John Murrell, this work is based on the extraordinary life of Alexander "Sandy" Keith, a notorious 19th century con artist and criminal from Halifax, Nova Scotia. An immense undertaking, the piece will premiere in Calgary in January of 2011. Tovey's other accomplishments as a composer include receiving the Best Canadian Classical Composition 2003 Juno Award for his Requiem for a Charred Skull, performed and recorded by the Amadeus Choir and the Hannaford Band in Toronto.

Tovey has also built a strong reputation as an accomplished jazz pianist with two recordings to his name and has made memorable appearances on television, including two documentaries with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and a 1996 CBC TV broadcast of Victor Davies' Revelation, a full-length oratorio based on the Book of Revelation, with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. He has also recorded several DVDs, of works including Holst's The Planets Suite with distinguished guests such as percussionist Evelyn Glennie, among many others.

Awarded numerous honorary degrees, Tovey has received a Fellowship from the Royal Academy of Music in London, honorary Doctorates of Law from the University of Winnipeg, the University of Manitoba and Kwantlen University College, as well as a Fellowship from the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. In 1999, he received the M. Joan Chalmers National Award for Artistic Direction, a prestigious Canadian prize awarded to premier artists for outstanding contributions in professional performing arts organizations.

Avan Yu, piano

At the age of 21, Canadian pianist Avan Yu has already performed in recital and with orchestra on four continents, consistently captivating audiences with his extraordinary musicianship and prodigious ability. He is the only pianist to win First Prize in both the Junior and Senior Divisions of the Missouri Southern International Piano Competition. During a recent tour of Quebec and Ontario for Jeunesses Musicales of Canada, Claude Gingras of Montreal's La Presse wrote, "Avan Yu is destined to become a very important pianist."

Most recently in August 2008, Avan captured the Silver Medal and the Audience Award at the prestigious 16th Paloma O'Shea Santander International Piano Competition in Spain. As a result, he will be performing in various European venues during the coming seasons.

Avan made his debut with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra at the age of fourteen in a performance of Rachmaninov's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. According to the Vancouver Sun, "He was astonishing, bringing out all the piano's harmonic depths and especially the music's poetry." Avan was then immediately re-engaged to perform the same work for a gala Summer Concert before an audience of 8,000 people. Since that time, he was engaged by the VSO for five of the six most recent seasons, including performances of the Chopin Concerto in F minor, the Prokofieff Second Piano Concerto, and Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition as part of their RussiaFest. This spring he will appear on the VSO’s PricewaterhouseCoopers Masterworks Silver Series at the Orpheum and then will be their featured soloist when they tour Central Canada performing in Toronto, Ottawa, Montréal and Québec City.

In the past few years, Avan has collaborated with orchestras such as the Dresden Philharmonic, Real Filharmonía de Galicia, Victoria Symphony, Ottawa Symphony, Windsor Symphony, Xiamen Philharmonic in China, Orchestre Philharmonique of Morocco, B.C. Chinese Orchestra, Seattle Northwest Philharmonia, and Seattle Youth Orchestra.

On October 13th of this season, he made his successful New York debut at the Carnegie Weill Recital Hall. In addition, he has performed for the CBC, the Chopin Club in Warsaw, UNESCO, Vancouver Women's Musical Society, Far East Broadcast Corporation, Canadian Vocal and Performing Arts Society, Vancouver Chopin Society, Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver as well as a tour of ten Chopin recitals in British Columbia. Avan has also been invited by Debut Atlantic to tour the Canadian Atlantic Provinces in the 2009/10 season.

Avan Yu first came to national attention by taking first prize at the Canadian Chopin Competition at the age of seventeen, after having won the Canadian Music Competition in both 2001 and 2002. He was a prize winner at the International Radio Competition for Young Musicians in Prague (with violinist Nikki Chooi), the Fourth Tchaikovsky International Music Competition for Young Musicians in Xiamen, China, and at the Fourth Concours International de Musique in Morocco where he was awarded the Grand Prix du Publique. Avan has received support from the Koerner Foundation, the Vancouver Women's Musical Society, and the B.C. Arts Council.

Avan Yu began his musical studies in Hong Kong at the age of five. After moving to Vancouver in 1997 he studied with K.K. Sum, and since 2003 has been a student of Kenneth Broadway and Ralph Markham. Currently, Avan is continuing his studies at the University of Fine Arts in Berlin, Germany with Klaus Hellwig.

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