In a capstone to our Leonard Bernstein centenary celebration, we present his quirky, complex, irreverent, and very humorous operetta Candide, with orchestral staging.
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Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 marked the composer's triumphant recovery from the disastrous premiere of his First Symphony. While some elements are familiar thanks to movie soundtracks and pop songs, the Concerto as a whole is a testament to Rachmaninoff's brilliance as a composer and pianist. Haochen Zhang is a worthy interpreter of this masterwork: Not yet 30, he's renowned for dazzling technique and thoughtful interpretation. Strauss's Alpine Symphony was inspired by a trek up a mountain, from pre-dawn darkness to deepening nightfall.
With these concerts our esteemed colleague Stéphane Denève begins his sixth and final season as our principal guest conductor. Soviet-born American composer Lera Auerbach says she was drawn to the myth of Icarus because of “his wish to reach the unreachable, the intensity of the ecstatic brevity of his flight, and the inevitability of his fall.” Her adventurous musical palette exploits the full sonic range of the orchestra: shimmering, soaring, and ultimately dying away. Stravinsky describes a different myth about feathered flight in his Firebird.
Daniil Trifonov, the Orchestra's Grammy-winning recording partner, returns for four performances. Amplifying the programs are two underappreciated works by formidable women composers: Lili Boulanger, the first woman to win, in 1913, the prestigious Prix de Rome composition prize, and Louise Farrenc, whose Symphony No. 2 dialogues with Beethoven, and leaves us asking why her works are not a more integral part of the canon today.
Two journeys to Italy bookend this program. Respighi's Pines of Rome is a sweeping pictorial of the Italian landscape. Edward Elgar's scintillating tone poem In the South commemorates a family holiday; the richly textured music conveys the Italian Riviera in all its warmth. Elgar's Introduction and Allegro is a showcase for strings.
Beethoven was just 25 when he wrote his First Symphony. Delightful and high-spirited, floating on strains of Mozart and Haydn, it's a fascinating glimpse of the greatness and genius to come—all on full, glorious display in the climactic Ninth. Written just a few short years before his death, Beethoven's profound ode to brotherhood, salvation, and pure joy reminds us why we are here as an orchestra, says Yannick, and why we constantly try to make our world better by playing music.
Tchaikovsky's Second Piano Concerto may be overshadowed by his more famous First, but it's the piece that earned Lukas Geniušas top honors at the Tchaikovsky Competition. Balanchine, too, recognized its consummate beauty, choosing it as the score for his tribute to classical Russian ballet. The government decided what was art when Shostakovich wrote his vehement and complicated Fifth Symphony under an oppressive Soviet regime (and threat of the Gulag).
Piccolo player Erica Peel at Reading Terminal Market. Photo by Jessica Griffin.