McALLEN The acclaimed Valley Symphony Orchestra, Peter Dabrowski, music director, recently announced its second chamber series concert of the 2011-12 Season, on Saturday, Nov. 19, 8:00 pm, at the International Museum of Art and Sciences (IMAS) in McAllen, with a unique program of solo piano and poetry by native Russian pianist and poetess Elena Baksht.

"We are extremely excited and happy to welcome pianist Elena Baksht to the Rio Grande Valley," states Larry Kopp, VSO executive director. "The concert features a really fabulous program for solo piano, all Russian works, including Mussorgsky famous Pictures at an Exhibition, as well poetry by a number of some of Russia's best-known and finest poets. It is a really unique program and one that you won't want to miss."

Entitled Russia Through the Eyes of Poetry and Music, the Nov. 19 program includes works by three Russian composers for solo piano: Barcarole from Tchaikovsky's The Seasons and Andante Maestoso from the immortal Nutcracker Suite; Sergei Rachmaninoff's Etude Tableau Op 39, #5; and Modest Mussorgsky's famous Pictures at an Exhibition in its original form for solo piano. And interspersed with the musical selections are poems from some of the finest poets Russia has produced- Anna Akhmatova, Marina Tsvetaeva, Maximilian Voloshin, Alexandr Blok, as well as poems by our guest, Elena Baksht.

"I am a concert pianist. Music is my life. At the same time, I cannot imagine life without poetry. This is why I have long nurtured the idea of concerts melding music and poetry," said Baksht. "I believe that by combining music and poetry in one presentation I can not only bring together two of my life's passions, but also create a very powerful force field, helping me engage the public both musically and verbally, opening up a whole new experience for my audiences. I decided to start by creating several programs about Russia, and that is how, in 2000, Russia Through the Eyes of Poetry and Music came to life. Since then, I have performed it extensively, and always found my audiences very moved by it."

The name Peter I. Tchaikovsky is one very familiar to concert audiences. The Nov. 19 concert includes two works by Tchaikovsky, one familiar, one not as well known by audiences. Tchaikovsky's music to The Nutcracker is among some of the best known and loved music ever written. Elena Baksht will be performing an arrangement for solo piano of one of the individual works of music to the ballet The Nutcracker. Much less well-known is Tchaikovsky's The Seasons. Written on a commission to compose 12 short solo piano pieces, one for each month of the year, the Barcarolle was composed for the month of June and was enormously popular during the composer's lifetime, appearing in numerous arrangements.

Sergei Rachmaninoff was a famous virtuoso pianist and composer, known for incredible pianistic technique and bravura performances. His Etude-Tableaux #5 in E-Flat Minor, composed in 1917, was one of the last pieces Rachmaninoff composed before fleeing his homeland because of the Russian Revolution and the subsequent Communist government. Requiring tremendous technique to perform, in the hands of a true artist it is an exceptional musical work.

The final musical work on the program needs no introduction to concert audiences- Pictures at an Exhibition by Modest Mussorgsky. Perhaps best known in its orchestral version arranged by Maurice Ravel, Mussorgsky originally composed Pictures for solo piano, in which version it will heard on November 19th. A musical depiction of the composer's visit to an art exhibit, the music is descriptive and imaginative, and has enjoyed considerable success in both its original form for solo piano and in a number of arrangements for full orchestra. The entire program requires a pianist of skill and refinement, and the program has one in pianist Elena Baksht.

Described as "the pianist with the magic touch" by the Washington Post and as "one the most intriguing pianists of her generation" by the Miami Sun Post, Elena Baksht captivates her audiences from the moment she appears on the stage with a combination of profound lyricism, dazzling technique, and charismatic presence. Ms. Baksht first came to public attention at the age of 11, when she performed Bach's D-minor piano concerto with the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra at the Central Hall of The Arts in Moscow. Since then, her career as a soloist and chamber musician has taken her to concert halls around the world. Most recent career highlights include appearances with The Barcelona Symphony Orchestra under the baton of maestro Lawrence Foster; The Miami Symphony at the Lincoln Theater; The New Philharmonic of New Jersey; Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall; Carnegie Hall and Weill Recital Hall; Kravis Center for the Performing Arts; a National Public Radio live broadcast with violinist Vadim Repin, and the WQXR Young Artists Series.

A native of Moscow, Elena Baksht studied at the renowned Central School for Gifted Children and at the Moscow Conservatory. After coming to the United States, Ms. Baksht was awarded a full-scholarship at the Manhattan School of Music to study in the studio of Nina Svetlanova. She earned her Bachelor's degree in 1998. The same year, Ms. Baksht became a winner of the Helene and Jerome Dreskin Foundation Career Grant, also winning the Artist International Competition. In Spring 2000, she received her Master's Degree in Music from The Juilliard School.

A unique concert experience, blending Russian and music and poetry, Russia Through the Eyes of Poetry and Music is like a visit to the artistic heart of "Mother Russia" without leaving the Rio Grande Valley!

"My goal - by blending several forms of Art together - is to present audiences with a holistic view of Russian Culture, to help them understand Russia, experience it, and relate to it through the eyes of its poetry and music," states Baksht. "I want to invite Valley residents on a journey through Russia, a wondrous journey, in which I will be your native-speaking tour guide!"

Single tickets to the November 19th Concert are $35/adults, $30 for students and seniors, and are available through the VSO Box Office, 200 South 10th Street, Suite 104, in the Neuhaus (Chase) Tower in downtown McAllen. The Box Office is open 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday. Online and telephone orders are available the VSO Box office as well by calling (956) 661-1615 or visiting the VSO Website at www.VSOMusic.org.

For more information concerning the Chamber Series II Concert, electronic copies of artist photos, artist biographies or an interview with Elena Baksht, please contact the VSO Office at 956-661-1615. In-depth information on the orchestra is available on the orchestra's website, www.VSOMusic.org. The VSO office is located at 200 S. 10th Street (Neuhaus Tower), Suite 104, McAllen, and is open 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM Monday through Friday. Mail should be sent to PO Box 2832, McAllen, TX 78502. For more information about the Valley Symphony Orchestra or its events, call the Orchestra office at (956) 661-1615. E-mail to info@VSOMusic.org. Press and advertising information can be obtained through the Symphony office as well.