Program features Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1

ASHEVILLE, N.C. – The Asheville Symphony opens its 2018-2019 Masterworks Season on Saturday, September 15 under the baton of newly appointed Music Director Darko Butorac, with a concert including works by visionary composers Wagner, Liszt and Shostakovich. Internationally renowned pianist George Li makes his Asheville Symphony debut as he joins the orchestra for Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1. The concert takes place at 8 p.m. in downtown Asheville’s Thomas Wolfe Auditorium.

After a two-year search process for its next music director, the Asheville Symphony named Darko Butorac to the position in June. The September 15 concert marks his first as the organization’s music director and his second with the orchestra. He conducted an audition concert in November 2018.

“We open our season in the spirit of the new,” said Butorac. “I am absolutely thrilled to begin my first season as music director of the Asheville Symphony. I loved working with the orchestra last season, and we will perform some incredibly powerful repertoire to open the season. These three works engage you on a visceral level and showcase both our wonderful soloist, George Li, and the excellent musicians of the ASO.”

The evening begins with two movements, the Prelude and “Liebestod,” from Richard Wagner’s opera Tristan und Isolde. Wagner’s opera depicts the tragic medieval love story of Tristan and Isolde and sweeps audiences up in its drama and beauty. Butorac noted, “This work displays mastery of musical tension and release. Wagner was obsessed with denying full resolution of harmony to prolong dramatic tension, and this work is the most famous for it. There are hundreds of books written just about the first chord, aptly known as the ‘Tristan chord.’”

Next, virtuosic pianist George Li makes his Asheville debut in a performance of Franz Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1. Hailed by The Washington Post for having “staggering technical prowess, a sense of command, and depth of expression,” Li won the silver medal at the 2015 International Tchaikovsky Competition and received the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant in 2016. He has performed around the world at venues including Carnegie Hall, Davies Hall in San Francisco, the Mariinsky Theatre, Munich’s Gasteig, the Louvre, Seoul Arts Center, Tokyo’s Asahi Hall and Musashino Hall.

Dmitri Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony rounds out the evening’s program. “For me, this is the most powerful work written in the middle of the last century,” said Butorac. “One can say that it was written literally at gunpoint — amid the Great Terror of Stalin — a work that saved Shostakovich’s life and at the same time gave inspiration and solace to his compatriots. The first performance received a 40-minute ovation. Powerful.”

Single tickets for Masterworks concerts are $24–69, depending on seating section (reduced youth pricing is available). Season subscriptions and ticket packages are also available. Tickets can be purchased online at, by phone at 828-254-7046, in person at the Asheville Symphony office at 27 College Pl., Suite 100, or at the U.S. Cellular Center Box Office.

The Asheville Symphony Orchestra performs and promotes symphonic music for the benefit, enjoyment and education of the people of Western North Carolina. The ASO presents concerts in the 2,300-seat Thomas Wolfe Auditorium in Asheville’s U.S. Cellular Center. Related organizations include the Asheville Symphony Guild, Asheville Symphony Chorus, Asheville Symphonettes, and education initiatives such as the Asheville Symphony Youth Orchestra, Music in the Schools, MusicWorks!, Spotlight on Young Musicians, Symphony Talks, and pre-concert lectures.

Masterworks 1: Wagner, Liszt, Shostakovich

Saturday, September 15, 2018 • 8 p.m.
Thomas Wolfe Auditorium
Darko Butorac, conductor
George Li, piano

Wagner           Tristan und Isolde, Prelude and “Liebestod”
Liszt                 Piano Concerto No. 1
Shostakovich  Symphony No. 5