This weekend, Michael Francis will take the stage with The Florida Orchestra as its new Music Director. For the concerts to open the Masterworks season, Francis chose Aaron Copland's Symphony No. 3 and the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 3, which will feature Valentina Lisitsa.
Francis said his idea was to present "two true epics," adding that they represent "very much the start of an American journey."
The choice may have been influenced by Francis' own American journey. Up until fairly recently, he called the UK and Europe home. But now he hangs his hat in the Tampa Bay area with his young family.
He calls Copland's Third Symphony, which was completed just after the close of the Second World War, "probably the most important American symphony written to that point." It was a way of Copland calling for unity, and a return to "simpler times."
Francis says Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3 is almost like a great Russian novel. He calls it "one of the absolute apogees of Romanticism." It's a work Francis recorded by conducting his former orchestra, The London Symphony Orchestra, with pianist Valentina Lisitsa, who he says, mortgaged her house to pay to record Rachmaninoff's concertos.
"She actually sent me YouTube recordings of herself playing the solo piano parts so I could get to know her tempi." He says the two have performed this work on many occasions in many countries, and in his words, "it's just been a very powerful artistic relationship."