Review of the opening night of The Florida Orchestra Masterworks Season with new Music Director Michael Francis leading The Florida Orchestra in Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 and Aaron Copland’s Symphony No. 3, featuring Ukranian-born pianist Valentina Lisitsa

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By: Janis Noland

Upon arrival, my guest and I were ushered into the welcome reception by the charming Sherry, a staff member with the beautiful Straz Center for the Performing Arts. After being offered champagne and chocolates, we were invited to a preconcert discussion in Carol Morsani Hall.

The concert began with beautiful and inspiring music by pianist Valentina Lisitsa, who is an internationally renowned classical pianist. Lisitsa featured Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 along with Copeland Symphony No. 3.

Lisitsa’s precision and powerful performance was acknowledged with 3 standing ovations. The audience loved her amazing charm and talent from the stage. After intermission, The Florida Orchestra embraced the crowd with Aaron Copeland Symphony No. 3.

Maestro Michael Francis, the new Music Director for The Florida Symphony 2015/2016 season, had the full attention of the well  rehearsed orchestra and they responded accordingly to his masterful cues and commands from the conductor’s podium. Maestro Francis experience was brightly evident by his national and international experience conducting acclaimed orchestras in Sweden, London, San Francisco, New York, Japan and Seoul.

After the concert, we enjoyed the exit of the amazing beauty of the Straz Center, with the night lights, colorful flowing fountains and lighted palm trees. There was warm flowing breezes, bright moon and the magical charm of an October evening in Tampa. A most excellent, incredible evening at The Straz Center and to experience a terrific opening night concert by the Florida Orchestra. Bravi!


Opening Night: Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 – Oct. 2, 3 & 4, 2015
The Tampa Bay Times Masterworks series opens with new Music Director Michael Francis leading The Florida Orchestra in Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 featuring Ukranian-born pianist Valentina Lisitsa, with whom Francis collaborated as conductor in recording the complete Rachmaninoff piano concertos with the London Symphony Orchestra for Decca Records in 2013. Rachmaninoff wrote his third concerto specifically for his first tour of the United States in 1909. During his lifetime he performed extensively in the U.S., where many of his works were premiered and recorded. The program also includes American Aaron Copland’s Symphony No. 3, hailed by many as the “Great American Symphony,” with its musical climax being the theme from Copland’s own Fanfare for the Common Man as a statement on the country’s post-war optimism.

Michael Francis has quickly established himself as an international conductor creating ongoing relationships with the world’s leading orchestras. He came to prominence as a conductor in January 2007 when he replaced an indisposed Valery Gergiev for concerts with the London Symphony Orchestra during the BBC Gubaidulina festival at the Barbican Centre. Only one month later, Francis was asked, this time with only two hours’ notice, to replace the composer/conductor John Adams in a performance of his own works with the London Symphony Orchestra at the Philharmonie Luxembourg, and soon after, in January 2009, he replaced André Previn leading a German tour of the Stuttgart Radio Symphony. Now six seasons later, Francis assumed his role as music director of the Mainly Mozart Festival on October 1, 2014, and as music director for The Florida Orchestra beginning in September 2015, while entering his third season as chief conductor and artistic advisor to Sweden’s Norrköping Symphony Orchestra.

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