BY LISA PERKINS
TRAVERSE CITY — The Traverse Symphony Orchestra will kick off the 2012-2013 concert season with a reunion of sorts.
Conductor Kevin Rhodes welcomes renowned piano soloist and his former college professor Ralph Votapek to share the stage for "2 to Celebrate!"
Votapek and the Traverse Symphony Orchestra, with Rhodes conducting, will perform at 7:30 p.m., Saturday and 3 p.m., Sunday in the Corson Auditorium at Interlochen Center for the Arts.
"He (Votapek) was the first American to win the Van Cliburn Piano Competition 50 years ago this week. It was an enormous deal at the time," said Rhodes, who has known Votapek for 30 years.
Votapek will play Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4 and Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 3, the two pieces he performed in the final round of the competition he credits with kicking off his career.
"It seems very appropriate to be playing them at this time," Votapek said.
The now retired Michigan State University artist in residence, has made hundreds of appearances with major American orchestras including the Chicago Symphony, Boston Pops, the Philadelphia Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony and the National Symphony. He also has played in London, Lisbon, St. Petersburg, and into the Far East.
Votapek has performed as a solo recitalist throughout four continents, making a special commitment to Latin America where he has toured every other year for more than 42 years.
Guest appearances with the Juilliard, Fine Arts, New World and Chester String Quartets are highlights of his chamber music experience. Votapek was the soloist on Arthur Fiedler's last Boston Pops recording.
"His career was launched by that contest, but his concert career has been sustained by his considerable talent," Rhodes said.
Rhodes, along with a panel of several musicians, will hold a pre-concert talk one hour prior to each performance. Ticket prices begin at $20 and are available at www.traversesymphony.org or by calling 947-7120.