Well, I am in Corpus Christi preparing for another concert tonight. It really should be a blast! I am also exited because my in-laws, wife, and good friend are all coming down today to hear the show. I wanted to write a bit here about what we are playing, because it is really an incredible program. Here it is:
- Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 3 (of 5, though it was finished last) in a minor
- Respighi’s Ancient Airs and Dance-Suite 1
- Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C major, performed by Joyce Yang
Each of these pieces boasts an incredibly different style, and all three are truly masterpieces. The Mendelssohn is amazing for form and contrapuntal prowess. He began to write it after his first trip to Scotland, particularly Edinburgh Castle (Holyrood) to which I have visited. Here is his description:
“In darkening twilight today, we went to the Palace [of Holyrood] where Queen Mary lived and loved. There is a little room to be seen there with a spiral staircase at its door. That is where they went up and found Rizzio [Italian musician, Mary’s lover] in the room, dragged him out, and three chambers away there is a dark corner where they murdered him. The chapel beside it has lost its roof and is overgrown with grass and ivy, and at that broken altar Mary was crowned Queen of Scotland. Everything there is ruined, decayed and open to the clear sky. I believe that I have found there today the beginning of my Scottish Symphony.”
It is fascinating to me to read his description of the little room an chapel because I have been to those very spots, and to play the themes he wrote for the imagery of those places is a wonderful and cherished experience for me. I have played this piece before, actually in Scotland when the University Orchestra traveled there in 1999. It was a great tour, but we were just a university orchestra, and truthfully we did not do the work justice. The conductor claims this is one of his most favorite pieces and we have worked very hard to bring its subtleties out. If you get to hear this work, listen for the forlorn opening theme. This was the bit that Mendelssohn wrote after seeing the castle and chapel. Then throughout the work, he plays a game of moving the theme around the orchestra in counterpoint, which drives the intensity and makes the magic. What a wonderful piece!
Respighi’s work is one that shows his appreciation for early music. It is a collection of Renaissance dances orchestrated in a romantic style which makes for a wonderful color of sound. These pieces are not technically challenging, but are very hard none the less because of the extreme care we have to take to play the correct style and dynamics that make the work. This should be a wonderful performance of work that isn’t normally programed.
Prokofiev’s concerto is flat out amazing. His works are always made in the same way, not to say that this is a bad thing at all! He builds a rhythmic machine with beautiful melodies appearing above the inner working of the contraption. I think you may be able to give him the first claim to industrial music, it is much like that. This is a challenging piece to play, with some incredibly hard licks, and difficult exact rhythmic passages, this will be a challenge tonight. Joyce Yang is a wonderful soloist. The thing that amazes me about her is her size. She is a very small petite woman, and it is jaw dropping to watch her power as a performer. She has a presence on stage that is millions of times her actual size!
I owe you a review of a couple of books I have read: The Places Inbetween by Rory Stewart, and The Davinci Code by Dan Brown (yes, I finally read it…) Keep you eye out for those soon. Currently I am reading A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking and a book with background literature and essays about the Davinci Code which truthfully is boring me, but I will keep with it a bit more.