Conductor Rossen Milanov kicks off the orchestra’s summer series this week at the open air Mann Center in Fairmount Park. They opened with a crowd pleaser program of two heavyweight classics highlighted by a lightening performance by 19-year-old Curtis pianist Hoachen Zhang who won the Van Cliburn International Competition last year. It is easy to see why as he masterfully attacked, caressed and otherwise illuminated Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1.
Containing some of Tchaikovsky’s most romantic orchestral drama and decorous keyboard runs, this can be a predictable crowd pleaser. Milanov and Zhang go for more. The pianist’s technique never showy and his dynamic at the keyboard kept drawing us deeper into the music. Milanov really amped up the strings to fit the outdoor venue and with this music enveloping the park environs with the skyline in the distance and a slip of a moon hovering, there is the triumph of music and nature.