Thursday, June 24, 2010

2010-2011 - The Season Preview

Stuart and I had a chance to sit down in his living room and look ahead to the Harrisburg Symphony's new season, "Music in Real Time" for 2010-2011.

You can hear the PodCast here.

We talked about which concerts he's most looking forward to (all of them, of course, but two especially stand out) and the different programs, the repertoire and soloists throughout the year. Not to mention one new role for this conductor, pianist, chamber musician, arranger and raconteur (as well, on occasion, chanteur) -- composer!

The first concert - October 2nd & 3rd - indeed "Pulls Out All the Stops," featuring the Forum Pipe Organ in a performance of Camille Saint-Saens' Symphony No. 3, the "Organ Symphony" with organist Eric Riley joining the orchestra. Jeffrey Biegel, who last played the Billy Joel Piano Concerto a few seasons ago, returns with a performance of Keith Emerson's Piano Concerto No. 1 -- and that's Emerson of Emerson, Lake & Palmer, though this is an original work, not an arrangement of "greatest hits." Biegel will also play Chopin's "Andante spianato & Grande Polonaise." The concert opens with a great organ warhorse - even though there's some scholarly argument that the work was originally for violin and maybe not even by Bach, initially: Bach's Toccata & Fugue in D Minor, transcribed for orchestra by Leopold Stokowski and familiar through its use in the original Walt Disney film, Fantasia.

The November concert - Nov. 13th & 14th - features one of the leading guitarists on the international scene, Grammy-winning Sharon Isbin who'll perform what is generally considered the most popular concerto for the instrument, if not of the entire 20th Century, the Concierto de Aranjuez by Joaquin Rodrigo. The program also features two 5th Symphonies but not by the usual suspects, when you think of "Fifths" - one, by the teen-aged Franz Schubert and the other, the one Jean Sibelius composed to celebrate his own 50th Birthday.

In January - Jan. 15th & 16th - you'll get a chance to "Catch a Rising Star" with the winner of the symphony's latest "Rising Stars" competition, pianist Yen Yu Chen, who'll play the Ravel Piano Concerto in G Major. The program opens with the little known "Theme, variations & Finale" by Miklos Rosza, a Hungarian composer whose concert works were overshadowed by his great film scores. The concert concludes with the well-known 6th Symphony by Tchaikovsky, the "Pathetique."

Following the recent success of the concert performance of the complete opera, Tosca, by Giacomo Puccini, Stuart Malina will be bringing two of those same singers back along with a few more for another Puccini favorite, La Boheme, complete with "supertitles" to provide the translation.This is an opera that has long been one of the staples of opera houses around the world and both Stuart and I fell in love with its music when we were high school (though I have quite a few years' drop on him, there). Those performances will be on February 26th & 27th.

The March concert - March 26th & 27th - features the orchestra's principal violist, Julius Wirth, as the soloist. You can hear the podcast where Stuart describes how they decided to program the Viola Concerto by Hungarian composer Zdenek Lukás - if it's a work I've never heard of before, I'm pretty sure it's going to be a discovery for 99% of our audience! ;-)

But the other works may be discoveries (or "revelations" as the concert is called) because, even though everyone will probably recognize Bach's famous "Air on the G String" (as it's unfortunately often called), you don't hear the whole Suite it's taken from that often. While Beethoven Symphonies are staples of any orchestra's repertoire, his 8th is perhaps one of those less frequently heard. Actually, Beethoven himself considered it a favorite and preferred it as a better work than the wildly popular 7th! Don't look for Charles Ives to "explain it all for you" - his enigmatic "The Unanswered Question" is like many philosophical discussions: more questions than answers but you always grow from thinking about them.

If you've heard recent performances of Mahler Symphonies here in Harrisburg - the 9th most recently as well as the 1st and 2nd ( the Resurrection) - you'll want to make sure either April 16th or 17th is on your calendar when Stuart Malina conducts Mahler's 3rd Symphony, a work that is not that frequently programmed even in places like New York City. It is, to put it mildly, an epic symphony. Mahler originally gave picturesque titles to its six different movements, including "Pan Awakens: Summer Marches In," "What the Flowers of the Field Tell Me," "What the Angels Tell Me," and the great finale, itself as long as many classical symphonies, "What Love Tells Me."

From Mahler to Brahms for the final concert of the Masterworks Season on May 14th & 15th. Concertmaster Odin Rathnam will be the soloist for the Violin Concerto, usually regarded as one of the two greatest violin concertos ever, and another epic symphony - shorter than Mahler's, perhaps, but almost 25 years in the making: Brahms' Symphony No. 1 in C Minor. But the program opens with a "Brahms Fan-Fare" by a big fan of Brahms, conductor Stuart Malina, himself. Listen to the podcast to hear him talk about the whole process of how this work will come about! (No pressure, there...)

Check the website for more details about the season - and about ordering subscription tickets. Or call 717-545-5527.

- Dick Strawser

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