Rach 3 is the stuff of nightmares – for pianists. The 105-year-old piece has been hailed or lambasted, worshipped or cursed, for being one of the most technically challenging and demanding concertos in the literature for pianists. Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943) composed the work in 1908 and 1909, completing it at the pastoral setting of Ivanovka, his family’s private retreat. The dedicatee, Josef Hoffmann, for whom the work was originally composed as well, never publicly performed the work. Many a pianist has lamented not learning the work as students – students are fearless in taming the unconquerable. Vladimir Horowitz – one of the legends of piano – infamously dubbed a passage (albeit short) of Rach 3 as “absolutely impossible,” despite Horowitz being responsible for being the most visible early representative performer of the work. All this is a reputation, though. A reputation, however, reinforced and dramatized through its focal point in the film Shine – but the work, no matter how well it lays under the fingers (or doesn’t), is a Herculean feat of romanticism, one of the last great out-and-out Romantic (with a big R) piano concertos.
Following a legacy of Van Cliburn and Vladimir Horowitz, Polish pianist Adam Golka will perform the work with the USC Symphony Orchestra on November 18. Golka initially studied with his mother Anna Golka in Poland, but later studied with Dariusz Pawlas at Rice University and Jose Feghali at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, TX (the hometown of Van Cliburn). Golka holds an artist diploma from Peabody where he worked with Leon Fleisher. He has won the 2008 Gilmore Young Artist Award, First Prize at the 2003 China Shanghai International Piano Competition, and debuted in Carnegie Hall in 2010 performing Rachmaninov’s Third Concerto with the New York Youth Symphony.
Also on the November 18 concert is Beethoven’s 4th Symphony in B-flat – a cheery, robust work that is often masked by the epic Eroica Symphony (Symphony No. 3) and Beethoven’s ubiquitous and dominating work, his Symphony No. 5. -Tom Dempster
Single concert tickets are $30 general public; $25 senior citizens, USC faculty and staff; $8 students. Concert tickets are available from Capitol Tickets: 803-251-2222 or Koger Box Office, corner of Greene and Park Streets (M-F 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) or online at capitoltickets.com