Music is many different things to different people, it’s true, but Plato saw music as “a moral law”, giving “soul to the universe, wings to the spirit, flight to the imagination , and charm and cheerfulness to life and everything”. ”
One of the reasons Western classical music has been around for so long is its continued cultural value, which is perhaps an affirmation of Plato’s belief. Popular around the world, it requires those who hear it to join as active, not passive listeners. It’s also not necessarily a stuffy affair for a gray-and-blue-haired audience with money.
In that vein, the Vallejo Symphony’s 90th season, which kicks off Nov. 12 and includes three concerts, each with two performances, Saturday and Sunday at the Empress Theater, features interesting programs mixed with old and new and three ballet pieces. fame of the 20th century. composers, including “The River Ballet Suite” by Duke Ellington.
Once again, the symphony orchestra’s musical director and conductor, Marc Taddei, and the members of the board of directors organized the concert trio around themes, in particular the ballet music featured. And while the programs also feature works from the standard repertoire of Brahms, Rossini, Ravel, Grieg, Mendelssohn, they also include contemporary pieces by Julia Perry, a mid-20th-century black American composer, and Trey Makler, the composer. competing for the symphony. residence.
The first concerts, scheduled for November 12 and 13, dubbed “Game of Cards”, feature Brahms’ Double Concerto for Violin, Cello and Orchestra in A minor, written in 1887 and lasting around 34 minutes. The soloists, violinist Stefan Hersh and cellist son Alexander Hersh, are not the stars of the show but, essentially, the main players in an orchestral drama of fast tempos with echoes of folksongs. The elder Hersh was previously concertmaster of the symphony orchestra and directs the string chamber music program at Chicago College of the Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. Alexander, who has performed with the Houston Symphony and the Boston Pops, is the co-artistic director of NEXUS Chamber Music, a collective of international chamber music artists.
The orchestra will also perform Rossini’s Barber of Seville Overture, a joyous work written in 1816 that gallops for seven minutes and musically sums up what is considered the greatest comic opera of all time. The overture is widely performed in concert halls.
The main performance of the concert will be Stravinsky’s ballet “Jeu de cartes”, a 24-minute work written in 1936 for the American Ballet Theater Company (directed at the time by a young George Balanchine), sometimes described as “a ballet in three transactions.
Although not as famous as the Russian composer’s ‘Firebird’ and ‘The Rite of Spring’ ballets, it is considered a neoclassical masterpiece and is inspired by his favorite game, poker. Episodic, it’s hilariously filled with quotes from Beethoven, Johann Strauss, Ravel, Delibes, Tchaikovsky and even Rossini’s “Barber of Seville,” noted symphony spokesperson Tim Zumwalt, adding, “It’s an orchestral tour de force that requires the virtuosity of your orchestra to take away.
The second concert, entitled “Fairy Tales”, scheduled for February 25 and 26, features Perry’s “Short Work for Orchestra”. In a press release, Taddei called her music “brilliantly crafted” and “a unique expression of neoclassical sensibilities distilled through the challenges she faced as a composer of color in the United States.”
Pianist Elizabeth Dorman, finalist of the Leipzig International Bach Competition 2018, will perform Grieg’s Piano Concerto, a 29-minute piece written in 1868, a popular work from the standard repertoire. After a timpani roll, the piano enters with a series of descending octaves, making it one of the most recognizable openings in all of classical music. The second movement is lyrical and remarkable for its harmonies. The third and final movement is a showcase for the soloist, with a finale featuring references to Norwegian folk dances and imitations of the hardanger, a Norwegian instrument.
The seminal piece, Ravel’s ballet “Ma mère l’oye” began as a group of piano miniatures, later orchestrated, then eventually expanded to the 1912 ballet score “filled with wonder on every page , and ends with one of the deepest peaks of the 20th century,” Zumwalt said.
Musically and structurally, it is a series of tableaux, including “Spinning Wheel Dance and Scene”, “Pavane of the Sleeping Beauty in the Woods”, “Conversations of Beauty and the Beast”, “Hop o’ My Thumb”, “Ugly, Princess of the Pagodas” and “The Fairy Garden”.
“The River,” May 20-21, wraps up the 2022-23 season and features two American works – Ellington’s “The River Ballet Suite” and the other, the world premiere of Makler’s “you echo in me.”
Ellington, one of the inventors of jazz, America’s great cultural contribution to the world, wrote “The River” for Alvin Ailey and the American Ballet Theater in 1970. The music paints a picture of “the progression of a river, from a small spring to the ocean, as a metaphor for life,” Zumwalt said.
A storyteller, Makler creates dramatic and poignant tales “that take the listener on unexpected journeys through memories of hope, game, struggle and triumph,” Zumwalt said.
Makler is a doctoral student in composition and theory at the University of California, Davis, and is a graduate of The Juilliard School and the University of Missouri. His main teachers have included Mika Pelo, Melinda Wagner, Stefan Freund and W. Thomas McKenney.
Violin virtuoso Cordula Merks, concertmaster of the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra and guest conductor of many other orchestras, including the Houston Symphony and the Dresden Philharmonic, completes the symphonic exploration of 19th-century concertos with Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto.
Lasting approximately 25 minutes from start to finish, the three movements of the 1844 concerto are played without interruption. The first begins with the violin opening the concerto theme, not the orchestra, an innovation that has influenced other composers. The second is sometimes called “a song without words” and allows the soloist to inject imagination into it. The third opens with its own fanfare and ends with frothy virtuosity.
Taddei was appointed Music Director of the Vallejo Symphony in 2016 and Orchestra Wellington (New Zealand) in 2007. Known for creating innovative programs, he conducts major Australian orchestras every year and returns to conduct in the United States every year. Taddei’s debut with the New York City Ballet led to an immediate re-invitation for three Balanchine ballets the following year, and last year he made his mainland China debut with the Xiamen Philharmonic Orchestra, Zumwalt noted. .
A graduate of the Juilliard School in Manhattan, he has worked with the greatest of the classical world, including Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and Anne Sofie von Otter; and also with jazz and popular music notables such as Joshua Redman, Diana Krall, Art Garfunkel and Kenny Rogers.
Taddei’s history includes nearly 30 recordings on the Sony, BMG, Koch, Columbia, Trust, ASV, Universal, Rattle, Concordance and Kiwi Pacific labels.
Pre-concert talks are presented an hour before each orchestral performance and feature conversations between Taddei and guest artists, providing insight into the programs.
The Vallejo Symphony can also be heard on KZCT-FM 89.5 in Vallejo. The three concerts will be rebroadcast at 10:30 a.m., in order, on November 18; March 10; and June 2. Additionally, guest artists will appear in live interviews and these programs will be posted on Facebook/VallejoSymphony.
Vallejo Symphony also contributes concert recordings to KDFC-FM 90.3, a San Francisco radio station, for their “Bay Area Mix” program. The symphony has been presented nine times since 2015.
As the season begins to take shape, Makler will work with Vallejo Schools to create Sound Explorers!, a free program, the only one of its kind in the Bay Area, for Vallejo middle school students.
In the press release, Zumwalt said the program “will guide a diverse group of young people in creating their own music.” No prior musical training is necessary. Teaching will focus on hands-on, experiential learning “that meets the student where they are and encourages the development of students’ individual identities and voices,” he added.
Taddei will provide additional support. Student compositions will be presented publicly by the symphony orchestra at annual youth concerts at the Empress, school recitals and other community events.
IF YOU ARE GOING TOVallejo SymphonyAt 8 p.m. and 3 p.m.Nov. 12 and 13 Feb. May 25 and 2620 and 21Empress Theatre330 Virginia St.Tickets: (707) 643-4441www.vallejosymphony.orgSingle tickets, $40 to $70, available online Jan. 2Discount for groups of 10 or more