Thursday, September 30, 2010

The First Podcast of the New Season! Pulling Out All the Stops!

Ta-daaah! The first pod-cast of the new season -- now with VIDEO -- as Stuart and I talk about the Harrisburg Symphony concert he'll be conducting this weekend - you can read more about the music on the program, here.

And join us either Saturday, Oct. 2nd at 8pm or Sunday, Oct. 3rd at 3pm at the Forum at 5th & Market Streets in Harrisburg!

Thanks to Marketing Director Kim Isenhour for filming and editing our conversation!

-- Dr. Dick

Pulling Out All the Stops: The New Season Begins!

The New Season begins! The first concert of the Harrisburg Symphony's Masterworks Series is this weekend at the Forum – Saturday (Oct. 2nd) at 8pm and Sunday (Oct. 3rd) at 3pm. Stuart Malina conducts a program that includes four works – beginning with Stokowski's orchestration of Bach's Toccata & Fugue in D Minor, originally for organ, two works for piano and orchestra – the Andante Spianato & Grande Polonaise by Frederic Chopin and the Piano Concerto by Keith Emerson, both with pianist Jeffrey Biegel (left) – and the Symphony No. 3 by Camille Saint-Saëns, known as "The Organ Symphony." Small wonder, given the keyboard connections, the entire concert is called "Pulling Out All the Stops."

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One of the most famous organ pieces of all time is Bach's Toccata & Fugue in D Minor. When audiences couldn't hear the great works of Bach in most concert halls – for lack of suitable instruments in those days – this music was fair game for arrangers to adapt them for the orchestra. And one of the most famous of these was the one made by the conductor Leopold Stokowski. It was this work, with Stokowski conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra, that opened Walt Disney's 1940 film classic, Fantasia.

The Disney animators took classical music and "accompanied" them with animations, long before the days of MTV and pop song videos. In some cases, the music "told a story," so the film interpreted that story. But in Bach's case, there was no "story," the music isn't "about" something – it's just abstract music about music. And so Disney used it as a light show to showcase the conductor and the orchestra as well as using geometric shapes (often inspired by the instruments playing at the moment) and abstract designs that might make you wonder what these guys were smoking in the animation room.

Here's a clip from the opening of Fantasia with Bach's Toccata & Fugue in D Minor.
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(Unfortunately, the famous moment when Bugs Bunny dashes up to the podium, tugging on the maestro's coattails ("Mr. Stokowski! Mr. Stokowski!") is not included in this clip...)

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There are two works on the program, featuring guest artist Jeffrey Biegel (left) who's played Rachmaninoff's 3rd Concerto as well as Billy Joel's Piano Concerto in past seasons. On this visit, he'll play works by Chopin and Emerson.

This year marks the 200th Anniversary of the birth of Frederic Chopin, the great Polish-born composer and pianist who wrote almost exclusively for the piano. After trying to play back tunes he'd hear his mother play on the piano, then making up a few of his own, he finally was given his first lessons when he was 6 years old and gave his first concert the following year, when he wrote his first "official" compositions, two polonaises.

By the time he was 20. he had written two piano concertos but, after settling in Paris, decided he was not cut out for the life of a traveling virtuoso like his friend Franz Liszt. In fact, his nerves could barely stand performing in public at all, and most of his concerts were held in intimate salons.

The short work included on this concert is really a combination of two works. The Grande Polonaise was written first, almost immediately after the concertos as he was setting out on a career, having left Poland following Poland's failed 1830 uprising against Russian rule. Now in Paris – his father had been a French soldier who stayed behind in Poland during the Napoleonic era – Chopin was frequently homesick. The polonaise is a stately dance from Poland and spoke of a by-gone age to the many emigres who'd left their country (or what was left of it) behind.

A few years later, Chopin composed one of his long-lined nocturne-like piano solos which he called "Andante spianato" (spianato means smooth, perhaps in the sense of the unruffled surface of a lake though "spinning" would work here as well, intended or not). He decided to preface the Grande Polonaise, which he felt started too abruptly, with this calmer andante, joining the two with a fanfare in the horns. Later, he also arranged the Polonaise for piano quartet (so it could be played by an amateur pianist with a few string players in the parlor – the 19th Century amateur market for household concerts like this was a major staple for composers' incomes – and eventually for solo piano as well.

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Keith Emerson was a prodigy as well, starting to play the piano at 4 but only taking a few years of lessons when he was 8. He's best known as the pianist for the English 1970s rock band, Emerson Lake & Palmer.

His Piano Concerto No. 1 was written in 1977 for the groups' "return" album following a short hiatus, and Emerson recorded it with the London Philharmonic conducted by John Mayr (who helped him with the orchestration). Emerson wrote it "was born out of a series of variations inspired by the English countryside, paricularly the home I had at that time, which was grand early Tudor and formerly owned by Sir James Barrie (author of Peter Pan). An annex to the main house presented a huge barn studio, where my nine-foot Steinway concert grand awaited, always demanding attention I could not resist. The piano's sonorities would ring out, inspiring me while attracting wild birds to nest in the beams. I incorporated many techniques into the Concerto, such as a twelve-tone scale with Baroque ideas in fugal style. Presented in traditional form, the work tells a story of nature's cycle – its joy, its destruction and, in the block chords of the third movement, its optimistic triumph."

Jeffrey Biegel, who played a concerto arranged from some of the short pieces "in classical style" by Billy Joel a few seasons ago with the Harrisburg Symphony, returns with this bona fide concerto by Keith Emerson which he'd heard on that initial 1977 recording and which wasn't getting any performances. He contacted the composer and worked with him to bring it back to the public's awareness.

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update: be sure to read Jeffrey's comment, posted below!
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By the way, this is not the first time music from Emerson Lake & Palmer appeared on a Harrisburg Symphony program: a few seasons ago, a new trombone concerto by Scott McAllister called "Tarkus" was given its world premiere by HSO principal trombonist Brent Phillips. The concerto was inspired by ELP's half-tank/half-armadillo creation, Tarkus.

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Camille Saint-Saëns began taking piano lessons when he was 2 years old, after it was discovered he had perfect pitch. (I guess that would classify him as a child prodigy.) He wrote his first composition when he was 3 and he was still composing when he died at the age of 86. So that means he had an 83-year-long career as a composer.

Like most composers, Saint-Saëns earned a living (and quite a reputation) as an organist as well as a concert pianist. For 20 years, he was the organist at the Madeleine Church in Paris where, in 1866, Franz Liszt heard him improvise and pronounced him "the greatest organist in the world." 20 Years later, Franz Liszt died and Saint-Saëns dedicated his newly completed 3rd Symphony to his memory.

The Symphony No. 3 in C Minor is usually called simply "The Organ Symphony" though the composer's original title "Symphony No. 3 in C Minor, "with Organ" is more realistic. It's not a concerto though it's got a very prominent part to play. It's heard only in the slow movement and the finale, but it does tend to be memorable when it stands out.

Technically, the organ is only part of the orchestra. But the orchestra for this symphony also calls for two pianists at one piano (a four-hand piano duet) which has by comparison a lesser role to play. It is also scored for "triple woodwinds" which means, usually, 2 Flutes & 1 Piccolo, 2 Oboes & 1 English Horn, 2 Clarinets & 1 Bass Clarinet, and 2 Bassoons and 1 Contrabassoon, including the usual 4 horns, 3 trumpets and 3 trombones. (If you want to see a really full stage, come to hear Mahler's 3rd Symphony next April which uses quadruple winds (actually, 5 clarinet players) and brass (with 8 horns).

Even though Saint-Saëns said this symphony was in two movements – with an actual break only in the middle – each half breaks into two parts itself, all of which corresponds to the traditional four-movement symphonic plan. The first half consists of a dramatic fast opening movement (after a mysterious, slow introduction), followed by a lyrical slow movement; the scherzo and finale are connected for the second half.

The organist for this weekend's performance with the Harrisburg Symphony will feature Eric Riley, organist at Harrisburg's Market Square Presbyterian Church. Eric frequently joins the orchestra as a member of the orchestra - this time, he gets the Saint-Saëns Spotlight.

Here's a series of video clips from YouTube with the complete Saint-Saëns' Third Symphony performed at a BBC Proms Concert with the Radio France Philharmonic conducted by Myung-Whun Chung. The organist in this performance is Olivier Latry.

Part 1: "1st Movement" Adagio; Allegro moderato
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Part 1: "2nd Movement" Poco Adagio
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Part 2: "3rd Movement" Scherzo
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Part 2: "4th Movement" Finale
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I remember the first performance of the then new Forum Organ with the Harrisburg Symphony. Edwin McArthur conducted and Paul Calloway, the organist of the National Cathedral, played Samuel Barber's Toccata Festiva. Now, my archive of concerts and repertoire is out on loan at the moment, so I can't check the date or what the other piece was on the program – I suspect it was the Saint-Saëns "Organ" Symphony, what else? – but it was an exciting concert and Harrisburg was very happy to have the instrument.

The console (the keyboard and casing of the instrument which the organist plays) was actually housed in the Forum's pit – back in the days when there was a pit. This was later covered over to expand the stage not just to accommodate a larger orchestra but to improve the acoustics by getting the strings out from under the proscenium arch. So the organ was then moved into a special "cave" built behind the stage which had been used to store stands and chairs and things (mostly "things") and unfortunately, over the years, the instrument was not used very often and began to deteriorate.

As orchestra manager for the symphony in the '80s, I remember dealing with renovations to the instrument and using it for several performances, including the Saint-Saëns as well as less conspicuous parts in works like Richard Strauss' "Also sprach Zarathustra" and Mahler's "Resurrection" Symphony. The organ console would be rolled out from it's cave, the long umbelical cord (the hose for the instrument's air-supply and wiring) snaking across the stage under chairs and risers. Each time, I needed to admonish the musicians not to step, trip or fall on this hose because even the slightest puncture could render the instrument breathless, not something that could be easily fixed. The other problem was tuning the instrument which is quite an undertaking, needing to check and adjust each of the pipes – and there are 3,481 of them! Being in tune with itself is a problem for an instrument that was not kept under regular care, but one time when the organ was scheduled to be played in a concert, it was found its intonation was too low for the orchestra to adjust to and there was no time to have the organ properly tuned (an electric instrument was brought in, instead).

But now it has been refurbished again and it's ready to roll!

"Pulling Out All the Stops," indeed!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Tickets for the New 2010-2011 Season

The Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra proudly offers Live Music in Real Time!

The Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra, led by Maestro Stuart Malina, proudly announces its 2010/11 season performance schedule. The season titled Live Music in Real Time features seven Masterworks concerts, four Capital BlueCross Pops Series, as well as five special events, including the annual “Stuart & Friends” concert; Picture Yourself in Paris…at the Moulin Rouge, a special fund-raising event; Harrisburg Symphony Youth Orchestra Holiday Spectacular; The Little Dragon, the first of a new Family series; and the reunion of the HSO and the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet for the annual CPYB performances of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker ™ at the Hershey Theatre.

Both the Masterworks and Capital BlueCross Pops series offer subscription packages. The Pops series offers a Full Season subscription to the four concerts and the Masterworks series is available in four packages including Full Season, “Flex 3” and “Flex 4” subscriptions.

In addition to a discount of up to 39% off single ticket prices, season subscribers enjoy reserved seating at the Forum and a subscription to the Fanfare newsletter. Season subscribers also qualify for the Symphony’s very liberal exchange policy allowing them the opportunity to exchange tickets for a different performance date or return unused tickets for a tax credit. Ticket exchanges and returns must be handled by the Symphony Box Office at least 24 hours prior to the concert.

The Harrisburg Symphony is proud to continue “Get Hooked on the Classics,” the specially priced new subscriber program launched during the 2007-08 season. The program offers a 50% discount off the regular subscription rate to anyone who has never subscribed to the Masterworks Full Season. There are seven seating areas to choose from, presenting options for every budget.

The “Sound Foundation” program also continues to introduce students to classical music. Students (kindergarten through 12th grade) accompanied by their parents or teachers are eligible to purchase the Full Masterworks series for only $27! The “Sound Foundation” program is a part of Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra’s ongoing commitment to fostering a love of live classical music in our community’s youth. This program is valid for sections 101 and 103 of the Forum.

Please visit for more information or call the office at (717)545-5527 to subscribe.
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The HSO kicks off the 2010/11 Season with a sonic festival of keyboards... piano and organ. Special guest pianist Jeffrey Biegel has an electrifying technique and mesmerizing touch that have received critical acclaim and praise worldwide. The evening concludes with special guest Eric Riley and a rare chance to hear the Forum’s 3,841-pipe organ in all its magnificent glory for the Saint-Saëns “Organ Symphony”

Bach/Stokowski: Toccata & Fugue in D Minor
Chopin: Andante Spianato & Grande Polonaise Brillante
Keith Emerson: Piano Concerto No. 1
(both with Jeffrey Biegel, Piano)
Saint-Saëns: Symphony No. 3 "Organ Symphony" (with organist Eric Riley)
(In Memory of David A. Elias, Jr. and Marie Graupner Elias)


Acclaimed for her extraordinary lyricism, technique and versatility, Grammy Award winner Sharon Isbin has been hailed as one of the leading classical guitarists of our time. She joins the HSO for a performance of Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez, one of the most popular concertos of all time.

Schubert: Symphony No. 5
Rodrigo: Concierto de Aranjuez (with Sharon Isbin, Guitar)
Sibelius: Symphony No. 5

CATCH A RISING STAR  January 15-16

Twenty-five contestants from seven states participated in the second Rodney & Lorna Sawatsky Rising Stars Concerto Competition at Messiah College on January 22-23, 2010. Walking away with top honors was 15-year-old pianist Yen Yu Chen from Philadelphia. Ms. Chen, a student at the Curtis Institute of Music, will perform the Piano Concerto in G by Maurice Ravel.

Rozsa: Theme, Variations & Finale
Ravel: Piano Concerto in G (with Yen Yu Chen, Piano)
(Guest Artist Sponsor: Messiah College)
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6 "Pathetique"


La Bohème may be the world’s most popular opera, and for good reason - it’s the quintessential portrait of romance, high-spirited friendship, and the idealistic pursuit of love and art. (Sung in Italian with English Supertitles.)

Puccini: La Bohème
-Inna Dukach as Mimi
-Dinyar Vania as Rodolfo
-Jane Redding as Musetta
-Grant Youngblood as Marcello
-Susquehanna Chorale; Linda Tedford, Conductor
-Harrisburg Singers; Susan Beckley, Artistic Director


Join long-time friends Bach and Beethoven, and our very own Julius Wirth, for an intimate dalliance with life, dance, elegance, and reminiscence. Bach’s Suite No. 3 is a wonderful set of French dances that surround what is possibly one of the most beautiful, most beloved melodies of all time – the Air on the G String. While Beethoven might often be considered brooding and restless, in his Symphony No. 8 we meet the other Beethoven – one who proves to be a happy, gentle, and quite lively companion.

Bach: Orchestral Suite No. 3
Lukas: Viola Concerto (with Julius Wirth, Viola)
Ives: The Unanswered Question
Beethoven: Symphony No. 8


Mahler’s Third Symphony was conceived as a musical portrait of the natural world. Mahler was inspired by the grandeur around him and stirred at a profoundly deep, emotional level.

Mahler: Symphony No. 3
(with Women of the Messiah College Concert Choir; Linda Tedford, Conductor
Susquehanna Children's Chorale; Judith Shepler, Conductor)
(Sponsored by the Glatfelter Family Foundation)


A night of Brahms kicks off with the Brahms Fan-Fare, arranged by our own Maestro Stuart Malina. Brahms’ only violin concerto features HSO Concertmaster Odin Rathnam in his 20th season with the HSO. This concert concludes with the Symphony No. 1, a remarkable and impressive achievement that was the result of a fourteen-year gestation period, and established Johannes Brahms as the leading German symphonist of his generation.

Malina: Brahms Fan-Fare
Brahms: Violin Concerto (with Odin Rathnam, Violin)
Brahms: Symphony No. 1
(Sponsored by The Hall Foundation)



Take a stroll down lover’s lane with this program full of dancing and romancing as guest artists Teri Dale Hansen and Nat Chandler join the HSO. Be swept away by lush arrangements of “Moon River,” “The Days Of Wine And Roses,” “Dear Heart,” “Charade,” and orchestral favorites such as “The Baby Elephant Walk,” “Peter Gunn,” “The Pink Panther,” and “Victor Victoria.”

SIMPLY SWINGIN' with Sinatra & Friends - January 29-30

The HSO joins Steve Lippia with a romantic repertoire of timeless classics. Hear the biggest hits of Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Bobby Darin, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Nat King Cole in smooth, classic, velvety style! Enjoy great hits such as Beyond the Sea, Unforgettable, Mack the Knife, Almost Like Being in Love, On the Street Where You Live, What Kind of Fool Am I, Just in Time, The Good Life, and I Left My Heart in San Francisco.


Back by popular demand, clarinetist Dave Bennett brings his sextet and vocalist Carol McCartney back to Harrisburg with a new show saluting the biggest clarinet stars of all-time: Artie Shaw, Jimmy Dorsey, Acker Bilk, Pete Fountain, and Benny Goodman.


Best known for his role in The Phantom of the Opera, Franc D’Ambrosio is “The World’s Longest Running Phantom,” having played the role over 3,000 times. His deep, rich tenor voice and flawless delivery will delight audiences with this revue of Broadway hits and love ballads performed with the HSO.



Immerse yourself in a night of Parisian ambiance with wonderful French Bistro cuisine, music, and art. Surrounded by strolling musicians, artists-in-progress, and can-can dancers, you can stroll the Champs-Élysées for our silent auction, and wander through Montmartre for our special event selections. After dinner, enjoy performances by special guests Edith Piaf and Mimi, from La Bohème, (accompanied by Stuart Malina )...and so much more! We hope we see you there.

C’est magnifique!


The Harrisburg Symphony Youth Orchestra and its new Music Director, Tara Simoncic, ring in the holiday season at this annual concert. The region’s brightest young musicians and high school choirs present a selection of exciting orchestral repertoire and holiday classics.

The Holiday Spectacular will be held at the Forum at 3PM with general admission tickets.


Revel in the warmth of the season as Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet dances to the sounds and orchestration of the Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra conducted by Stuart Malina . December 18th at 1 & 5 PM and December 19th at 2 PM at the Hershey Theatre.


Maestro Malina’s reputation speaks for itself. Experience his energy, grace and skill in this special setting as Stuart and a select group of musicians from the HSO present this enchanting program. Stuart & Friends is underwritten by Marilynn R. Kanenson in memory of Dr. William Kanenson.


Irish melodies collide with eccentric characters and jaunty dances in the Tales & Scales’ beloved Musictelling adventure about caring, courage, and the power of the imagination. Tales & Scales Musictellers join the HSO and conductor Tara Simoncic in The Little Dragon! The Little Dragon will be held at the Mechanicsburg Middle School at 3 PM with general admission tickets.

All Masterworks and Capital BlueCross Pops performances are at the Forum at 5th and Walnut in downtown Harrisburg . Saturday performances are at 8PM and Sunday performances are at 3PM. Each Masterworks Series concert features a pre-concert lecture that begins one hour prior to the performance. Special Events have varied locations, please see specific Special Event for the location and ticketing details.

Maestro Stuart Malina is one of America ’s most versatile and accomplished conductors. In a wide variety of concerts, from masterworks and grand opera to pops, Malina’s ease on the podium, engaging personality, and insightful interpretations have thrilled audiences and helped to break down the barriers between performer and listener wherever he has worked. Malina has been music director and conductor of the Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra since June 2000.

Malina made his Carnegie Hall debut in February 2007 conducting a sold-out performance with the New York Pops in an all-Gershwin tribute including “Rhapsody in Blue,” which he conducted from the keyboard. He returned to Carnegie Hall on Oct. 26 to conduct the New York Pops in a salute to the golden era of Hollywood .

Malina won a Tony Award for orchestration with Billy Joel for the musical “Movin’ Out,” which Malina helped to create with director and choreographer Twyla Tharp. He is the music supervisor for both the National Tour and the London/European Tour of the show.

An accomplished concert pianist, Maestro Malina has impressive credits as a soloist, having performed in numerous concerts in the United States , the Netherlands , and with the acclaimed Piccolo Spoleto Contemporary Music Festival.

Additional information about Malina is available on his website at

Tickets for performances at the Forum range from $10 to $55 depending on seat location and are available online at or by calling the HSO office (717) 545-5227. Subscription packages and single tickets are now available!

- Kim Isenhour, Marketing Director