SIBELIUS 5 – Billings Symphony Skip to content


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Classic Series


Sep 21, 2024


Alberta Bair Theater

2801 3rd Ave N


Zlatomir Fung, Cello

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky | Rococo Variations
Jean Sibelius | Symphony No. 5

Experience an opening night of virtuosic artistry! Zlatomir Fung’s extraordinary mastery will astound as he performs the work which made him the youngest cellist to win First Prize at the International Tchaikovsky Competition. Not to be outdone, the orchestra shines with Sibelius’ divine mosaic of melody, majesty … and swans in flight.

  • Sibelius’ Fifth Symphony was written in April 1915 and was comprised of just three movements when the normal structure for a symphony was four. This was perhaps a push towards modernism, as we know Sibelius was influenced by Schoenberg. The final movement was inspired by the sight of swans the composer saw flying overhead and the main theme in the movement denotes the sound of these creatures; calm, elegant, and repetitive. Sibelius ends the symphony unusually with six chords broken up by rests, giving the conductor complete control over the ending of the work.
  • By the time Sibelius came to premiere his Symphony No.5 in 1915, he had come around to Mahler’s maxim that the ‘symphony must be like the world. It must embrace everything,’ he said. The fifth symphony came smack bang in the middle of one of the most exciting musical decades ever – which saw Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring and The Firebird and the modernist experiments of Varese.

Guest artist


The youngest cellist ever to win First Prize at the International Tchaikovsky Competition, Zlatomir Fung is poised to become one of the preeminent cellists of our time. Astounding audiences with his boundless virtuosity and exquisite sensitivity, the 24-year-old has already proven himself a star among the next generation of world-class musicians.

As Artist-in-Residence with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in the 2023/24 season, Fung appears at London’s Cadogan Hall and tours the UK with the orchestra. Further afield, highlights in North America and Asia include Fung’s debut with the Cleveland Orchestra, appearances with the Baltimore and Shanghai Symphony Orchestras, and a tour to Japan, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Recent concerto highlights include his debuts with the New York Philharmonic, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Orchestre National de Lille, and BBC Philharmonic, as well as Detroit, Seattle, Milwaukee, Utah, Rochester, and Kansas City Symphonies.

Fung made his recital debut at Carnegie Hall in 2021 and was described by Bachtrack as "one of those rare musicians with a Midas touch: he quickly envelopes every score he plays in an almost palpable golden aura.” Other recent highlights include returns to the Wigmore Hall and appearances at the Verbier, Dresden, Janacek May, and Tsinandali Festivals, Cello Biennale, La Jolla Chamber Music Society, ChamberFest Cleveland, and the Aspen Music Festival.

Alongside demonstrating a mastery of the canon with his impeccable technique, Fung brings exceptional insight into the depths of contemporary repertoire, championing composers such as Unsuk Chin, Katherine Balch, and Anna Clyne. In 2023, under the baton of Gemma New and with the Dallas Symphony, Fung gave the world premiere of Katherine Balch’s “whisper concerto” with “jaw-dropping brilliance” (Dallas Morning News) as the dedicatee of the work.

A winner of the 2017 Young Concert Artists International Auditions and the 2017 Astral National Auditions, Fung has taken the top prizes at the 2018 Alice & Eleonore Schoenfeld International String Competition, the 2016 George Enescu International Cello Competition, and the 2015 Johansen International Competition for Young String Players, among others. He was selected as a 2016 US Presidential Scholar for the Arts and was awarded the 2016 Landgrave von Hesse Prize at the Kronberg Academy Cello Masterclasses.

Fung was announced as a Borletti-Buitoni Trust Fellowship Winner in 2022 and awarded an Avery Fisher Career Grant in 2020. He was named to WXQR’s Artist Propulsion Lab in 2023. Fung has been featured on NPR’s Performance Today and has appeared six times on NPR’s From the Top. He plays a 1717 cello by David Tecchler of Rome, kindly loaned to him through the Beare’s International Violin Society by a generous benefactor.

Of Bulgarian and Chinese heritage, Zlatomir Fung was born into a family of mathematicians and began playing cello at age three. Fung studied at The Juilliard School under the tutelage of Richard Aaron and Timothy Eddy, where he was a recipient of the Kovner Fellowship. Outside of music, his interests include chess, cinema, and creative writing.




Susan & Bruce Barrow


Margit Thorndal