Chicago Philharmonic January 14 2022

Guitarist Sharon Isbin takes a bow after performing Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra with conductor Scott Speck and the Chicago Philharmonic, Jan. 14. (Photo by Anne Ryan)

The Chicago Philharmonic Society kicked-off the Year of the Rabbit celebrations Saturday night at the Harris Theatre by transporting audiences back in time and across oceans with the North American premiere of Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra (Yi2).

Featuring the music by composer Tan Dun, GRAMMY winner and guitarist Sharon Isbin and solo cellist Joshua Roman, the evening also included a performance of "Rise," a cello concertino by Reinaldo Moya’s that embodied his personal story of finding peace through his family’s loss.

The performance started with Wei Yang playing a Chinese string instrument called a "pipa" in a solo that bridged both eastern and western notes. Led by Artistic Director and Principal Conductor Scott Speck, Isbin's Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra (Yi2) was joyful with playful banter exchanged between guitar and the rhythm of clapping hands. Audiences were also treated to a preview of Isbin's Venezuelan inspired piece from her Affinity album, Waltz No 3. Natalia.

A highlight of the concert were the six musical movements in which the Chicago Philharmonic orchestra brought Tan Dun's Crouching Tiger Concerto to life. A “dancing” percussionist (Peter Ferry) and flute soloist (Mimi Tachouet) took listeners through Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon movie and its beautiful landscapes. Heroes sparring in the iconic bamboo forest scene were perfectly conveyed with the effortless vibrato from Joshua Roman’s cello.

In an email interview, Roman highlights the bamboo scene as one of his favorites. “I love the Bamboo Forest scene, which gives us a chance to see the stark contrast between two of the characters with very different emotional dynamics," he said. When asked about his new year's focus, Roman is excited to take on fewer but deeper projects, such as Rise, a collaboration with Chicago Philharmonic’s in-house composer Reinaldo Moya that was also performed Saturday night.

The Chicago Philharmonic rings in the Year of the Rabbit

Cello soloist Joshua Roman performs the Crouching Tiger Concerto with conductor Scott Speck and the Chicago Philharmonic, Jan.14. (Photo by Anne Ryan)

In an email interview, Moya describes how Rise came about and how he introduced the piece via video while he was in Madrid. “My life was thrown into disarray in June 2022 with the sudden passing of my brother Manuel. The writing of Rise was a way of processing this loss and trying to bring new life into the world after this family tragedy. The piece is dedicated to him. I wanted to write something lyrical, elegiac, but also as the writing went along, the cello soloist took on the role of the grieving person who is trying to understand the events.”

The Chicago Philharmonic was founded by musicians of the Lyric Opera and is a collaboration of over 250 of the highest-level classical musicians in the Midwest. The orchestra has won multiple awards from the Illinois Council of Orchestras, including "Orchestra of the Year" (2018) and "Conductor of the year" 2021.

Chicago Philharmonic rings in the Year of the Rabbit

Photo by Anne Ryan.

Continue to celebrate the new year with the Chicago Philharmonic with amazing concerts including Improvisations on E09066 and The Batman in Concert. For more information and schedule of performances visit

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