One of the world's best pianists returns after 25 years to perform with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra in September.

Canadian Louis Lortie will be joined by acclaimed Israeli conductor Asher Fisch for the NZSO's Transfiguration tour coming to Wellington, Auckland, Dunedin and Christchurch. The concerts feature three exhilarating works by Rachmaninov, Richard Strauss and Wagner.

He will play in at the Auckland Town Hall on Saturday September 7.

Lortie, hailed by The New York Times as "mesmerising" and by The Seattle Times as "brilliant", will perform one of Rachmaninov's most famous works, the romantic Piano Concerto No. 2. The concerto is the basis for the song Full Moon and Empty Arms performed by Frank Sinatra and Bob Dylan, and Eric Carmen's top 10 hit All By Myself.

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Since last performing with the NZSO in 1994, Lortie has gone from strength to strength as a distinguished and virtuosic pianist. He performs with the world's leading orchestras, as along with an acclaimed recording career. He continues to spellbind audiences and critics with his interpretations of great composers, including Rachmaninov, Beethoven, Chopin, Ravel and Liszt.

Britain's The Telegraph described one of the pianist's recent performances as so powerful: "Lortie threw caution to the winds, summoning reserves of sheer power that made the walls shake."

"He wowed the audience and was repeatedly brought back to the stage in some of the warmest response to an artist given this season," said The Calgary Herald.

"When I play with an orchestra, we're getting to speak, as much as possible, a common language," says Lortie. "For me, it's fascinating to see the conductor convey that to the musicians."

Maestro Fisch, Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor of the West Australian Symphony Orchestra, works with leading orchestras and opera companies. He's especially celebrated for his interpretations of Romantic and post-Romantic composers, while conducting a wide variety of repertoire, from 18th century opera composer Gluck to contemporary works.

In Transfiguration, his NZSO debut, Maestro Fisch will also conduct Richard Strauss' Tod und Verklärung (Death and Transfiguration), an impassioned tone poem of a dying artist's reflection on life.

Wagner's Overture to Tannhäuser is taken from his riveting opera of lust, love and redemption where a troubadour becomes of the lover of the goddess Venus.

"I see our job as inspirers," says Maestro Fisch about being a conductor. "We have to inspire our musicians to give the best that they have."

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