Mei-Ann Chen returns to Alabama Symphony for All-Russian program

01.30.12
Mei-Ann Chen
Alabama.com

By Michael Huebner

Since Mei-Ann Chen stood in front of the Alabama Symphony less than two years ago, her star has risen. The 38-year-old Taiwanese-American conductor, who conducts ASO Masterworks concerts Friday and Saturday, took the reins of the Memphis Symphony in the fall of 2010. About the same time, she captured the top job at the well-regarded Chicago Sinfonietta and has garnered raves from the Chicago press. Her guest appearances are on the rise as well, recently stepping in at the last minute for concerts with the Cincinnati Symphony, adding to a list that includes the orchestras of Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago and several more in Europe.

She is also known for her highly energetic conducting and on-stage presence. The Los Angeles Times’ Mark Swed noted her “carb-loaded,” “calorie-burning,” “gung-ho” conducting of Tchaikovsky. At her last ASO appearance, she exclaimed after one piece, “Forgive me for being breathless.”

On the all-Russian program next weekend are Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Sinfonietta on Russian Themes,” Stravinsky’s Suite from “The Firebird” and Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3.

Pianist Eliran Avni will solo in the Rachmaninoff. An Israel native who has worked with Yo-Yo Ma, Isaac Stern and Yefim Bronfman, Avni last performed in Birmingham in Oct. 2010, when he played the Piano Sonata No. 3 by then-ASO composer-in-residence Avner Dorman.