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Fargo-Moorhead Symphony's grand finale set for this weekend

Pianist Claire Huangci is the featured soloist at this weekend's FM Symphony Orchestra concerts. Gregor Hohenberg / Special to The Forum1 / 2
Violinist Benjamin Sung plays his final concerts with the FM Symphony Orchestra this weekend. Forum file photo2 / 2

FARGO—The Fargo-Moorhead Symphony is calling this weekend's concerts "a very grand finale". It's a nod to guest soloist, pianist Claire Huangci, but also a just descriptor of the whole program.

The lineup features one of the most cherished pieces from the Romantic period, a new work by a local composer and a wild ride in the streets of Rome.

And that's not even considering the star of the show.

With so much going on in one concert, we broke it down to five things to watch and listen for during the music.

  • Once you hear her, you'll see why there's no doubt that Claire Huangci is indeed the star of the show. Now 28, the former child prodigy plays with not only dizzying speed, but a great feel for the music. She'll be playing Sergei Rachmaninoff's "Piano Concerto No. 2," and the composer is known for intense, difficult passages. Huangci is no stranger to stressful situations. At age 8, she won the gold medal at the World Piano Competition. Two years later, she played before President Bill Clinton.

  • Rachmaninoff's "Piano Concerto No. 2" is the centerpiece of the show, not only because of Huangci's performance, but also the enduring legacy of the piece. The work established him as a composer when it premiered in 1901. It not only made an impact in symphonic circles, but in pop music. In 1975 singer Eric Carmen topped the charts with his soft rock ballad, "All by Myself," the verse of which was lifted from the second movement, Adagio Sostenuto. Listen for the theme, first played by flute, then clarinet, then piano.

  • Rachmaninoff may get the most attention, but the show opens with a locally produced number. Concordia College professor Daniel Breedon's "Riding on a Pony: Variations on 'Yankee Doodle,'" spreads the fun around throughout the orchestra, giving different musicians a chance to be heard. His composition, "Heart's Ease," was performed in the 2016 "Romeo and Juliet"-themed concert.

  • Speaking of blasts from the past, Ottorino Respighi's "The Pines of Rome" closed out the season-opening concert in 2015. Now the last piece of his "Roman Trilogy," "Roman Festivals" closes out this season. Where "Pines" is majestic, Respighi has more fun with "Festivals," opening with sounds from a circus and closing with the clamor of the streets. Listen for the sound of a drunk, imitated on trombone.

  • This will be FMSO audience members' last chance to hear concertmaster Benjamin Sung, who is leaving the group after these concerts. For more than a decade, the violinist has been a key figure and often the face of the orchestra. He was a soloist earlier this year, so he's had his time in the spotlight, but don't be surprised if he gets a little extra attention this weekend, but just watching the joy he feels playing is enough of a treat.

If You Go

What: Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra season finale

When: 7:30 p.m., Saturday and 2 p.m., Sunday

Where: Festival Concert Hall, NDSU

Info: Tickets range from $14 to $38. www.fmsymphony.org or (701) 478-3676.

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