Seventy years ago, Sergei Rachmaninoff performed his last concert on the UT campus in what is now the Alumni Memorial Building.
Fast-forward to Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013, when world-class Russian pianist Evgeny Brakhman visited the same location on the same day to honor Rachmaninoff and his last concert by performing his pieces in the Cox Auditorium.
The Evelyn Miller Young Pianist Series partnered with the School of Music and the College of Arts and Sciences for this completely free event.
"We had great sponsors," Jeffrey Pappas, director of the School of Music, said. "This is a partnership that the School of Music is creating with other community entities and we're thrilled to have all that support from our community this evening."
Students and many people from the Knoxville community attended. Many of those in attendance were standing in the back or sitting on the walking rails just to get their share of the magical event.
Among the audience was Harrison Hilt, sophomore in civil engineering, who said he decided to take advantage of the free concert.
"I had never heard of Rachmaninoff or been to a classical music performance before, but I was familiar with some classical music works," Hilt said.
Brakhman, performing on his favorite piano model, a Steinway & Sons, played solo piano pieces written by Rachmaninoff, who in between pieces he declared as one of his favorite composers. Pappas, who also helped organize the event, said he was overjoyed by the entire experience.
"It was a major concert. We had a wonderful turnout and we're very thrilled about that. I think we commemorated an anniversary here very nicely," Pappas said.
Brakhman followed his final performance of "Preludes" with two encores, both of which were his own compositions. Hilt said his favorite part of the night was the encores.
"When he came back on, you could really see Brakhman's personality coming to the forefront. He was out there having fun and enjoying himself," Hilt said. "Performers don't always show their true colors while they're on stage. I thought it was really cool that he was able to go out and have fun on stage and not be so professional."
Pappas said that his least favorite part of the event was that it had to end.
"I'd be hard-pressed to find something I didn't like. I could sit here all night. That's probably the thing I didn't like: that it had to end," Pappas said.
Conversely, Hilt said his only complaint of the night was the overall length of the performance.
"Overall, his performance was very impressive. However, two hours of piano music was a bit much for someone like me, who is not an avid classical music listener," Hilt said.
Pappas said that the best part of the event was the intensity of the spirit of the evening.
"To have 900-plus people show up for an event on a Sunday night to hear music of Sergei Rachmaninoff by a Russian pianist in the same hall where Rachmaninoff performed his last concert, I think the essence of the spirit is very, very special," he said.