Ending the Season With a Bang
Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra’s final three concerts feature top guests and varied music.
The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra’s final concerts of the season have little in common musically, but they collectively demonstrate the talent and versatility of this world-class orchestra.
The beginning of the end kicks off this weekend with “Divine Dvorak.” Under the baton of conductor Gilbert Varga, the orchestra will present Antonin Dvorak’s “Slavonic Dances, Opus 46,” the first set of two that established the composer’s international reputation. Inspired by Brahms’ “Hungarian Dances,” the pieces carry many characteristics of Slavic folk music through their varying tempos, capturing everything from the dreamy rhythm of the dumka to upbeat polkas. The concert will also feature Robert Schumann’s “Cello Concerto” with MSO principal cellist Susan Babini. Rounding out the concert is British composer Edward Elgar’s “Serenade for Strings in E minor, Op. 20.”
Varga returns the following weekend for a different approach to dance with Maurice Ravel’s “Bolero.” The one-movement piece was originally written as a ballet when it premiered in 1928, influenced by the Spanish dance of the same name. Since then, it has been revered for its powerful simplicity: a single, repeated theme, growing as more instruments join and crescendo to a nearly unparalleled climax. Adding to the dance theme, the concert will also feature Hungarian composer Zoltan Kodály’s “Dances of Galánta,” influenced by Hungarian folk songs Kodaly collected and studied. But the headliner here is guest violinist Karen Gomyo, who will perform in Tchaikovsky’s “Violin Concerto,” considered one of the most technically difficult pieces for violin. Gomyo, hailed by the Chicago Tribune as a “first-rate artist of real musical command, vitality, brilliance and intensity,” should have the chops to handle the tricky work.
For its last concert of the season, the MSO will step away from traditional classical fare and honor the nation and its veterans with “Patriotic Pops.” Though conductor Jeff Tyzik has arranged and performed patriotic programs for years, he never tires of that singularly American genre.
“I think it’s important for us to honor our veterans,” Tyzik says. “It’s very important to me, and I really try to make the most of these concerts.”
Singers from the MSO Chorus will join the orchestra for several arrangements, including Aaron Copland’s “Old American Songs” and a Tyzik’-composed work, “An American Celebration” featuring songs like “America the Beautiful” and “Yankee Doodle Dandy.” They will also accompany the orchestra for “Hymn for the Fallen,” Williams’ composition from the movie, Saving Private Ryan.
Tyzik says he looks for works that are “exciting and fun” for audiences “and at the same time respectful of why we’re doing this.” Patriotic music can descend into hokum but Tyzik says “I try to program pieces that are very meaningful and emotional as opposed to things that are corny.”
Additionally, Mark Niehaus, CEO of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, will perform as a trumpet soloist during the program. Niehaus was the been MSO’s principal trumpeter for many years.
“He’s been the executive director and working to solve the orchestra’s problems,” Tyzik says, “but this is a great opportunity for him to come out on stage once again and show off his musical skills.”
A nationally renowned pops conductor, Tyzik has performed with the MSO frequently. He tries to educate his audiences about the works featured in his programs.
“We have a chance to take an audience and give them a musical journey and let them experience wonderful emotions,” Tyzik says, “and hopefully walk out of the concert hall not just having heard some great music, but knowing a little something about its origin or … just fun information so they know what they’re listening to. It makes their experience much more enjoyable.”
“Divine Dvorak” – May 30 – June 1
“Bolero” – June 6 – 8
“Patriotic Pops” – June 13 – 15
All performances at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets range from $22 – 102 and are available online or by calling 414-291-7605.
Other Upcoming Events:
In hopes of finding the next best young pianist, PianoArts will host its annual North American Competition and Music Festival from June 5-11. Eleven semifinalists, ages 16-20, will give solo recitals and an additional recital with members of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra throughout the week. Three finalists will perform with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra at the finals and awards ceremony concert June 11. The first place winner will receive $10,000. The festival also includes concerts from professional musicians and free panel discussions. All events take place at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, except for those on June 11, which will be held at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts.
Times and ticket prices vary by day. Festival passes are $85-100 for adults and $65-85 for students. For Wisconsin Conservatory of Music event tickets, call 414-255-0801 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For Marcus Center event tickets, call 414-273-7206, order online or visit the box office.