The Oklahoma City Philharmonic's new season starts Saturday with Grammy-winning pianist Peter Serkin 

Peter Serkin and the Oklahoma City Philharmonic
8 p.m. Saturday
Civic Center Music Hall
201 N. Walker

The Oklahoma City Philharmonic's season kickoff is Saturday, featuring acclaimed pianist Peter Serkin.

At age 11, Serkin enrolled in the Philadelphia's Curtis Institute of Music, and by 19, he earned a Grammy as Best New Classical Artist. He's performed with major orchestras worldwide and collaborated with big-name chamber performers like Alexander Schneider and Yo-Yo Ma.

"Having Peter Serkin will be a major experience for all of us," said Joel Levine, OKC Phil music director and conductor. "His father, Rudolf Serkin, was a legend who appeared here playing the same Brahms concerto in 1951. Peter continues a piano dynasty, and he is one of the greatest living pianists who has performed for audiences throughout the world."

Serkin will be performing Brahms' "Piano Concerto No. 2." Other pieces for the evening include Berlioz's overture to "Le Corsaire," Sheng's "The Black Swan" and Tchaikovsky's overture fantasy, "Romeo and Juliet."

First violinist and associate concertmaster John Arnold said "The Black Swan" is "brand-spanking new" to him.

"After being in the symphony world for so long, every once in awhile something brand-new comes up, and it's very nice and refreshing to play," Arnold said.

Preparation for each season begins about two years in advance, as the Philharmonic staff reaches out to feature artists " and their agents and works " to arrange an eclectic mix of established musicians, fresh faces and up-and-comers.

The upcoming season will showcase an array of talents in vastly different fields, including opera soprano Sari Gruber and Midori Gotõ, an Osaka, Japan-born violin prodigy who debuted with the New York Philharmonic when she was only 11.

The season includes 17 performances: eight concerts in the Philharmonic's Classics Series and six in the Pops, as well as three Discovery concerts, a series geared toward families with young children.

"The Phil has had incredible success with the pattern we established from our beginning: Present the world's greatest classical artists, bringing back audience favorites and adding new faces, searching the country for popular artists who know how to entertain the audience that comes to the Philharmonic Pops and inventing fun, themed concerts for families who would like to introduce their children to the excitement of a live orchestra," Levine said.

Those who arrive an hour early for Saturday's opening-night concert can take part in a question-and-answer session with Levine, who also will lead a discussion about the music to be played that evening.

"The audience can expect to see the Philharmonic perform some of the most gorgeous music ever written with one of the great pianists of the world," Levine said. "The orchestra is excited to get back to work and our enthusiasm shows. I'm not just saying this: We hear from our patrons that they can tell how much the Phil enjoys what it does. And that is what it's all about." "Emily Hopkins

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