programming soloists & recitals the orchestra world

ludwig, carl, and aaron

This week’s concerts by the Oregon Symphony feature three works that range from the well-known to the virtually unknown. It’s a good mix of the familiar and the new (though none of the pieces was written more recently than 67 years ago).

Karen Gomyo

Beethoven’s only violin concerto is one of those pieces that can only be called Olympian. It is a piece of absolute music that scales the heights of musical expression. It is not a showcase for the violin – merely a virtuoso vehicle – but a fully-realized musical vision that just happens to be written for the violin. Soloist Karen Gomyo returns after her 2010 debut with the Oregon Symphony (Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 1) with a cool and elegant interpretation of this greatest of violin concertos. Superb intonation, a silvery sound, and a sure command of the long musical line are all part of Gomyo’s work in this concerto, and will be a highlight of the season, I suspect.

Aaron Copland’s Letter from Home is a charming piece of Americana. It was written in support of the American war effort in 1944. It sounds so cliche, but that’s only because succeeding generations of composers have copied Copland’s version of American music whenever the effect is needed (especially in motion picture soundtracks). Copland nailed it, and you can practically see the elegant penmanship of mom’s letter to her son far from home. I’m amazed that we never performed this piece while Murry Sidlin was here as Resident conductor, given the amount of Copland’s music that we performed with him.

Carl Nielsen’s Fourth Symphony “The Inextinguishable”, will be new to many concert goers, but that shouldn’t be a deterrent. It is a big showpiece for the orchestra, with battling timpani (two full sets, at opposite sides of the stage, played by Principal timpanist Jonathan Greeney and Principal percussionist Niel DePonte), snarling and triumphant brass, and scurrying strings and woodwinds. It’s about the triumph of the best of the human spirit, and should be an uplifting conclusion to the concert!

You can read my program notes for this concert online here.

Other tidbits about this concert:

  • Guest concertmaster for this series: Assia Dulgerska, who currently is a member of the Houston Symphony.
  • Principal flute for this series: Jessica Sindell, who is one of two finalists playing trial weeks with the orchestra. Interesting coincidence: she is Portland State University (and Floristan Trio member) violin faculty member Carol Sindell’s niece.
  • Our new second bassoonist, Adam Trussell, joins us for this series. He makes the official move to Portland on December 1st. He comes to the Oregon Symphony from the Omaha Symphony.
  • With us on piccolo and third flute this week is Julie Thornton, who is currently a member of the Colorado Symphony.