The Milwaukee Symphony Leans into the New Year with Two Fantastical Fairy Tales
The Firebird Suite by Stravinsky and La Peri by Dukas.
MILWAUKEE, WIS. 01/06/2016– The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, led by guest conductor Christopher Seaman, presents two performances of Stravinsky’s musical masterpiece The Firebird on January 22 and January 23 at 8:00 p.m. at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. Paired with The Firebird is Dukas’s “dance poem in one scene”, La Peri. Also programmed are Elgar’s overture In the South (Alassio) and Sibelius’s Violin Concerto in D minor as performed by Karen Gomyo. Ms. Gomyo has been hailed as “a first-rate artist of real musical command, vitality, brilliance, and intensity,” by the Chicago Tribune.
Both concerts include Meet the Music, an interactive pre-concert discussion held one hour prior to concert start time in the Anello Atrium. Led by MSO musicians and local music experts, this engaging and informative discussion about the music is free for all patrons attending the performance.
In the South, Op. 50, “Alassio” by Elgar: Edward Elgar is no stranger to lovers of classical music. He is best known for his orchestral works – Enigma Variations, Pomp and Circumstance marches, concertos for violin and cello, and two noble symphonies. He was also an enthusiastic composer of choral music, writing oratorios, cantatas, partsongs, and church music.
Figuring among Elgar’s orchestral works are two splendid concert overtures, Cockaigne and In the South. Many writers have observed that the latter is really a tone poem, one that easily bears comparison with Richard Strauss. In this instance, the “South” refers to Italy – more specifically, to the town of Alassio, situated on the Italian Rivera, halfway between Genoa and Nice. Elgar and his family spent the Christmas and New Year holidays there in 1903–04. It became their favorite vacation destination.
Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47 by Sibelius: Full of Romantic-era passion from start to finish, Sibelius’s violin concerto affords a wide range of musical expression. The composer essentially casts the violinist as a singer, conveying the gamut of human emotion – whether in an Italianate melody, a melancholy daydream, or a foot-tapping dance rhythm.
Of solemn disposition, Sibelius was not drawn to composing concertos. Certainly he was not of the ilk that produced the flashy concertos of his day, and the violin concerto is his only completed concerto for any instrument. As music writer David Hurwitz points out, “the work sounds as much like Sibelius as it does a violin concerto. In other words, at no point does it turn into a gratuitous display of technical tricks at the expense of the composer’s own idiomatic voice. His natural preference for low, dark sonorities permits him to write in his normal style for the orchestra, while at the same time fashioning a perfect accompaniment for the solo violin.”
La Peri, poème dansé by Dukas: Paul Dukas is most often remembered for The Sorcerer’s Apprentice but one of the reasons we don’t hear a lot of Dukas’s additional music is that he didn’t leave us much. Meticulous to a fault, some might say, the composer relegated most of his compositions to the fireplace. In fact, La Péri almost suffered the same fate: Composed “for a bet,” it was spared only by the intervention of several respected friends, who begged Dukas not to destroy the manuscript.
For his only ballet – he called it a poème dansé (danced poem) – Dukas turned to an ancient Persian legend of a péri, or a fairy creature. In crafting this many-hued musical setting, Dukas pulled out all the stops, creating a tour de force of Impressionist orchestral color and technique. The score is a rich tapestry of elegant, wispy effects and deliciously opulent instrumental shadings.
Suite from The Firebird (1919 revision) by Stravinsky: With his ballet The Firebird, the 28-year-old Igor Stravinsky found immediate and lasting fame. (“I was once addressed by a man in an American railway dining car, and quite seriously, as ‘Mr. Fireberg,’” a much older Stravinsky related.) Composed between November 1909 and May 1910, the ballet was first performed at the Paris Opéra on June 25, 1910. The next day, the composer was a celebrity.
The Firebird was a tremendous success. Stravinsky relates: “The first-night audience at the Paris Opéra glittered indeed… I sat in Diaghilev’s box, where, at intermissions, a stream of celebrities, artists, dowagers, aged Egerias of the Ballet, writers, balletomanes, appeared … I was called to the stage to bow at the conclusion, and was recalled several times. I was still onstage when the final curtain had come down, and I saw coming toward me Diaghilev and a dark man with a double forehead whom he introduced as Claude Debussy. The composer spoke kindly about the music, ending his words with an invitation to dine with him.”
Over the years, Stravinsky fashioned three suites from the ballet: in 1911, 1919, and 1945. The latter two reduce the instrumentation of the original ballet, which Stravinsky had called “wastefully large.” A master of orchestral writing, Stravinsky trimmed the number of players without diminishing the music’s bold audacity. In all its various versions, Stravinsky’s score for The Firebird blends rich harmonies, the vigor of Russian folk music, and the orchestral magic he learned from Rimsky-Kosakov – conjuring music of tremendous power and beauty.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
British conductor Christopher Seaman has an international reputation for inspirational music making. His diverse musical interests are reflected in his range of repertoire and he is particularly known for his interpretations of early 20th century English music, Bruckner, Brahms and Sibelius.
With a long and distinguished career in the US, Christopher was Music Director of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra (New York) until 2011 and was subsequently named Conductor Laureate. During his 13-year tenure – the longest in the orchestra’s history – he raised the orchestra’s artistic level, broadened its audience base and created a new concert series. This contribution was recognized with an award from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.
Other key positions that Christopher has held include Music Director of the Naples Philharmonic Orchestra, Conductor-in-Residence with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Artistic Advisor of the San Antonio Symphony, and in the UK he was Principal Conductor with both the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Northern Sinfonia.
In May 2009, the University of Rochester made Christopher an Honorary Doctor of Music, acknowledging his outstanding leadership as conductor, recording artist, teacher and community arts partner. In 2013 the University published his first book, Inside Conducting, illustrating Christopher’s wealth of experience as a conductor and a teacher. The book was chosen by both The Financial Times and Classical Music magazine as one of their books of 2013; while The Spectator wrote that it “demystifies the art and the figure of the conductor.”
Recipient of the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant in 2008, violinist Karen Gomyo has been hailed by the Chicago Tribune as “A first-rate artist of real musical command, vitality, brilliance and intensity”, and by the Cleveland Plain Dealer as “captivating, honest and soulful, fueled by abundant talent but not a vain display of technique”.
Gomyo has established herself in recent years as a much in demand soloist internationally, performing with orchestras such as the New York Philharmonic, LA Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, and Cleveland Orchestra. Outside of the US, she has appeared with the Danish National Symphony, Mozarteum Orchester Salzburg, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Tokyo Symphony, and Sydney Symphony.
Recently, the NHK-produced documentary film “The Mysteries of the Supreme Violin”, about Stradivarius, in which Gomyo was violinist, guide, and narrator, was broadcast worldwide on NHK WORLD.
Gomyo is deeply interested in the Nuevo Tango music of Astor Piazzolla, and has an ongoing project with Paizzolla’s longtime pianist and tango legend Pablo Ziegler and his partners Hector del Curto (bandoneon), Claudio Ragazzi (electric guitar) and Pedro Giraudo (double bass). She also performs regularly with the Finnish guitarist Ismo Eskelinen in a unique duo program. A recording with Mr. Eskelinen is planned for 2015.
Karen Gomyo plays on the “Aurora, ex-Foulis” Stradivarius violin of 1703 that was bought for her exclusive use by a private sponsor.
ABOUT THE PERFORMANCE
Christopher Seaman, conductor
Karen Gomyo, violin
Uihlein Hall, Marcus Center for the Performing Arts
Friday, January 22 | 8:00 p.m.
Meet the Music, Anello Atrium | 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, January 23 | 8:00 p.m.
Meet the Music, Anello Atrium | 7:00 p.m.
Tickets range from $20-$110. Group rates are available. For more information, please call 414.291.7605 or visit mso.org. Tickets may also be purchased through the Marcus Center Box Office at 414.273.7206.
ABOUT THE MSO
The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, under the dynamic leadership of Music Director Edo de Waart, is among the finest orchestras in the nation and the largest cultural institution in Wisconsin. Now in his seventh season with the MSO, Maestro de Waart has led sold-out concerts, elicited critical acclaim, and conducted a celebrated performance at Carnegie Hall on May 11, 2012. The MSO’s full-time professional musicians perform over 135 classics, pops, family, education, and community concerts each season in venues throughout the state. Since its inception in 1959, the MSO has found innovative ways to give music a home in the region, develop music appreciation and talent among area youth, and raise the national reputation of Milwaukee.
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