Can a pianist take on Rachmaninoff? The Houston Symphony will find out

  • IF YOU GO

  • WHAT: "RachFest"

    WHEN: Thursday, Saturday and Sunday

    WHERE: Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana St., Houston

    COST: $25-$116

    WHAT: "The Children's Hour"

    WHEN: Starts Friday and runs Thursday through Sunday, until Jan. 28

    WHERE: City Theater, 3823 Airport Blvd., ...

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  • IF YOU GO

    WHAT: "RachFest"

    WHEN: Thursday, Saturday and Sunday

    WHERE: Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana St., Houston

    COST: $25-$116

    WHAT: "The Children's Hour"

    WHEN: Starts Friday and runs Thursday through Sunday, until Jan. 28

    WHERE: City Theater, 3823 Airport Blvd., Austin

    COST: $15-$30

    WHAT: "Imprinting the Divine: Byzantine and Russian Icons"

    WHEN: 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Wednesday through Sundays, until March 18.

    WHERE: 1515 Sul Ross St., Houston

    COST: Free

    WHAT: "Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs"

    WHEN: Thursday through April 15

    WHERE: The Houston Museum of Fine Arts, Caroline Weiss Building, 1001 Bissonet St., Houston

    COST: $33 for adults; $18 for children

    WHAT: "Les Miserables"

    WHEN: Thursday through Jan. 8

    WHERE: The Majestic Theatre, 224 E. Houston St., Houston

    COST: $35-$125

"Rachmaninoff! He shakes me! He quakes me! He makes me feel all goose pimply all over!" Marilyn Monroe's character exclaimed in the film, "The Seven Year Itch."

The movie is worth watching; but if you've never sat down and listened to the works of Sergei Rachmaninoff, I've got an even better plan for your weekend - the Houston Symphony's RachFest. The festival features famed pianist Kirill Gerstein tackling four piano concertos written by the famed Russian pianist and composer.

The concertos are notoriously difficult. Some professorial types even believe Rachmaninoff's "abnormally" large hands are what made it possible for him to compose - and actually play - this stuff.

His music is deeply personal, a storm of sound that surrounds you and pulls you in as he runs through every emotion on the spectrum. With a good pianist, the passion in his work will flood a room and fill a hall with a gorgeous cacophony of sound.

Luckily, Gerstein is known to be a very good pianist. He'll be moving through the concertos for the first three weekends of the month. They are works that demand both technical skill and endurance.

The Houston Symphony describes these works as "knuckle-busting" challenges. Basically, this isn't just a rendition of "Chopsticks."

But don't take my word for it; come and see for yourself. Then, when you finally settle in to watch "The Seven Year Itch," you'll be able to really get the Rachmaninoff joke. Be sure and tell everyone Rachmaninoff really does shake you and quake you.

After all, the whole point of listening to Rachmaninoff is to tell other people about it, right? (Wrong, but go find out for yourself.)