From Russia with Love

Featuring 2015 Honen’s Piano Competition winner Luca Buratto the SSO is pleased and proud to present our first piano concerto since 2007. Revel in the glorious sounds of Rachmaninoff’s piano concerto #2, then settle in for the romantic beauty of Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet, and Stravinksy’s Firebird suite.


THE SMILE OF MAUD LEWIS …………………………… Nikolai Korndof (1947-2001)

CONCERTO FOR PIANO #2 IN C MINOR OPUS 18 ….. S. Rachmanioff (1873-1943)





SUITE FROM SWAN LAKE ………………………………. P.I. Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

FIREBIRD SUITE ………………………………………………. I. Stravinsky (1882-1971)


Korndof composed The Smile of Maud Lewis in 1989, making it one of his final works. At the time of the premiere, he stated, “First of all, I have to say that discovering the art of Maud Lewis was one of the most important cultural experiences since my moving to Canada. I was most impressed by three things. First, I was fascinated by her art: simple, ingenuous, but very cordial, open-hearted, moving, gentle and full of light. Second, I was struck by the circumstances of her very hard and unhappy life. It seemed that everything was against her. But in spite of that, her art was full of belief in love and it inhales optimism and light. And the third thing, I was enchanted by her smile. In spite of her specific facial features – she did not have the lower jaw – her smile was full of gentleness and affability. There is a saying that a smile is the mirror of the soul. If indeed it is true, Maud Lewis’s smile, and her art alike, showed that she possessed a lofty, beautiful and rich soul, and therefore I called my piece this name.” Please enjoy works by this renowned “outsider” artist, courtesy of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, during the performance.


Although his works span the 20th century Rachmaninoff is considered to be one of the last Great Russian Romantics; his sound was rooted in the 1800s and owes much to nationalist composers like Glinka and Tchaikovsky. Rachmaninoff was a talented composer and a renowned pianist, the exceptional reach of his large hands leading him to compose some of the most dramatic works of the genre. He was not, however always as admired by his critics as his late career would indicate. In fact, the reception of his first symphony was so poor that it flung the already sensitive composer into a deep depression, from which he did not rise for nearly 3 years. His 2nd piano concert considered, by many to be among the greatest ever written, was what drew him out. Both its composition and his realization of it on piano were hugely successful, allowing Rachmaninoff to relax and become the composer and pianist he was destined to be. It is a work of dynamic extremes and singing melodies requiring both power and speed. Through all of it, the work also requires an enormous sensitivity, a voluptuous cocoon of sound that is both modern and quintessentially Romantic.


The leitmotif from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake is easily one of the most recognizable tunes in the classical cannon. Although the ballet was not considered to be a particular success during the composer’s life time, an 1895 performance by the Bolshoi Ballet brought it forward to our collective attentions, where it has reigned supreme in the ensuing years. You’ll hear the famous swan motif twice during this performance, bookending some of the more spirited dances from the ballet. Full of light and darkness, joy and sorrow, Swan Lake exemplifies the brilliances of Tchaikovsky’s ballet compositions.


Telling the story of the downfall of Kastchei the Deathless by the intervention of a beautiful rare bird, Stravinsky’s Firebird combines orchestral wizardry with the vitality of Russian folk music, lending the work a dynamic and evocative atmosphere. Throughout his later career, Stravinsky remained especially fond of The Firebird, returning to create three different concert versions that he himself conducted tirelessly. With a musical language that shifts between exotic chromatic gestures and the sing-song simplicity of Russian folk song the suite changes from spooky to opulently dazzling, before reaching the penultimate “Savage Dance” and its serene final lullaby.


Following 2015 Honens Prize Laureate Luca Buratto’s Wigmore Hall debut recital in London this January, The Guardian wrote: “Graceful, analytical, meticulous, Buratto is a name to watch”, while The Telegraphwrote: “A triumph”.

In addition to his success at Canada’s Honens Piano Competition, Buratto was awarded third prize at the International Robert Schumann Competition (Zwickau) and the special ‘MDR’ prize, awarded from the public in 2012. He took inspiration from Italian tennis player Roberta Vinci’s upset over Serena Williams at the U.S. Open just hours before his Honens win. “There are many similarities between the psyches of tennis players and pianists,” he says, referring to David Foster Wallace’s epic novel, Infinite Jest.

He made his debut in 2003, playing music from his great grandfather, Renzo Massarani. Recent and upcoming orchestral engagements include Milan’s La Scala with Orchestra Sinfonica Giuseppe Verdi, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Toronto Symphony, Calgary Philharmonic,

Edmonton Symphony and Symphony Nova Scotia. In 2016 Buratto performed for the Progetto Martha Argerich at the Lugano Festival (Switzerland), Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival (Canada), Busoni Festival (Italy) and was a resident artist at Marlboro Music Festival (USA). This summer he returns to the Marlboro Music and Ottawa International Chamber Music Festivals and, in October, gives his Carnegie Hall recital debut..

Buratto has been featured on national radio broadcasts on BBC Radio 3, CBC Radio 2, Radio Classica, Radio 3 RAI, WFMT and WQXR. A live recording of his performances from the 2015 Honens Piano Competition is available on the Honens label. His debut studio recording of works by Schumann will be released on the Hyperion label in April 2017, and will be “recording of the month” for May.

After completing his studies at Milan Conservatory, in 2010, under the guidance of Edda Ponti, he studies for 4 years in the studio of Davide Cabassi. At the same time, as a “Theo Lieven Scholar”, he pursed his Master of Advanced Studies at the Conservatorio della Svizzera Italiana, in Lugano, under the guidance of William Grant Naborè.

Buratto’s affinity for the music of Robert Schumann is balanced by his curiosity for works of today’s composers such as Thomas Adès. He enjoys jigsaw puzzles and table tennis and has an interest in physics and American post-modern literature. Buratto lives in Milan.