Altoona Symphony Orchestra kicks off season with cello sensation Sophie Shao

Courtesy photo Rising cello sensation Sophie Shao will perform English composer Edward Elgar’s “Concerto for Violoncello.”

The Altoona Sym-phony Orchestra launches its 91st season Oct. 5 with “The Gathering Storm,” under the direction of Maestra Teresa Cheung as the symphony commemorates three historic anniversaries.

The 2019-20 season recognizes the confluence of three major world events: the centennial of WWI’s end, the 75th anniversary of the ending of WWII and the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, according to a news release from the symphony.

The season opens with a soulful cello concerto written by English composer Edward Elgar. His “Concerto for Violoncello” will be performed by rising cello sensation Sophie Shao, whose performances have been noted as “eloquent, powerful” by the New York Times.

Additionally, the concert will feature what Beethoven considered to be one of his best works — Symphony No. 7. This work has been featured in several major motion pictures, most notably, “The King’s Speech,” a 2010 award-winning film.

Shao is a winner of the Avery Fisher Career Grant and top prizes at the Rostropovich and Tchaikovsky competitions, is a versatile and passionate artist whose performances the Washington Post called “deeply satisfying,” according to the symphony web site.

Shao, who plays on a cello made in 1855 by Honore Derazey and was once owned by Pablo Casals, has appeared as a soloist throughout the United States, Europe, Asia, and the United Kingdom.

The native Texan studied under Shirley Trepel, former principal cellist of the Houston Symphony.

She also studied with David Soyer at the Curtis Institute of Music, and with Aldo Parisot at Yale College, where she received a BA in religious studies.

Shao received her MM from the Yale School of Music, where she was enrolled as a Paul and Daisy Soros Fellow. She is also on the faculty of the University of Connecticut Storrs and Rutgers University.