After winning the gold medal in the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, the most famous piano competition in the world, guest artist Jon Nakamatsu quit his job as a high school German teacher to pursue a career as a classical pianist. And we’re glad he did!
Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini is a piano concerto with 24 variations. The last variation is so technically difficult that Rachmaninoff had a glass of crème de menthe before the debut to steady his nerves. His performance was such a success that prior to every subsequent performance, he drank crème de menthe and eventually gave it the nickname "Crème de Menthe Variation”.
Finnish composer Sibelius called his second symphony a confession of the soul. “From start to Finnish,” the heroic and optimistic first and final movements of the symphony were exactly what the public needed in 1902 during a period of Russian oppression.