Sunday, May 16, 2021
May 16, 2021

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Symphony tackles all-Russian concert

The Columbian
Published:

One of the best things about Salvador Brotons’ conducting is that he can usually find the emotional core of a piece of music. On the podium, he might suddenly jump and turn to the violins with a crazed expression on his face and his hands high above his head, or he might crouch down like a tiger waiting for a delicious morsel of sound to come by. It’s all in service of getting to the heart of the music, and this weekend, Brotons will explore the vast emotional landscape of Russian orchestral music, leading the Vancouver Symphony in a program that includes works by Rimsky-Korsakov, Borodin, Taneyev, and Tchaikovsky.

o What: Vancouver Symphony plays Rimsky-Korsakov, Borodin, Taneyev and Tchaikovsky.

o When: 3 p.m. Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday.

o Where: Skyview High School’s concert hall, 1300 N.W. 139th St., Vancouver.

o Cost: $42 for reserved seats, $29 for general admission, $24 for seniors and $9 for students.

o Information: 360-735-7278 or visit http://vancouversymphony.org/tickets.html.

Because Brotons has spent the last week in Palma, Spain, conducting the Balearic Symphony in concerts and recording a Catalan operetta for the Disc-medi label, he communicated via e-mail about the Vancouver Symphony concert.

o What: Vancouver Symphony plays Rimsky-Korsakov, Borodin, Taneyev and Tchaikovsky.

o When: 3 p.m. Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday.

o Where: Skyview High School's concert hall, 1300 N.W. 139th St., Vancouver.

o Cost: $42 for reserved seats, $29 for general admission, $24 for seniors and $9 for students.

o Information: 360-735-7278 or visit http://vancouversymphony.org/tickets.html.

“I wanted an all-Russian program with a variety of composers, some well-known and some less well-known,” explained Brotons. “All these composers were contemporary, good friends, but each of them has a different viewpoint of the concept of music.”

The most unusual piece that the orchestra will play is Sergei Taneyev’s Second Symphony, which is rarely played outside of Russia.

“It was difficult to get the score,” noted Brotons. “I got it through a Russian friend. This symphony has very beautiful thematic material and melodies. It’s a very deeply Russian work, but it is not long (only 3 movements). I am sure the audience is going to love it.”

Although principal clarinetist Igor Shakhman has not played this symphony, he has played other works by Taneyev and has a music degree from the Moscow Conservatory, where Taneyev served on the music faculty. Some of Taneyev’s most famous students were Alexander Scriabin, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Reinhold Gliere, and Nikolai Medtner.

“Taneyev is a very important person in Russian culture,” said Shakhman. “Besides being a composer and teacher, he was a great pianist. He was the soloist in the Moscow premiere of Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto and also the soloist in the Russian premiere of Tchaikovsky’s Second Piano Concerto.”

Taneyev was noted for combining Western styles with Russian tunes and melodies, and scholars have called him the “Russian Brahms.”

Some of his contemporaries wrote music that was influenced by Russian folk songs and had a more nationalistic style. One of them was Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. The Vancouver Symphony will play his “Russian Easter Festival Overture,” which was inspired by Russian Orthodox liturgical themes. This piece has lots of orchestral color and gets incredibly quiet before exploding in a riot of sound.

Another audience favorite is the “Polovtsian Dances” from Borodin’s opera “Prince Igor.” This opera is rarely performed in the West, but some of the themes from this music were incorporated into the 1953 musical “Kismet” and made popular in the song “Strangers in Paradise.”

The opera tells of Prince I-gor’s campaign in 1185 against the Polovtsian nomadic people and the Khans. At one point, the prince is captured and the music depicts the dances of the Polovtsian maidens.

“The Polovtsian Dances contains very flavorful music,” noted Shakhman. “It just sweeps you off the ground.”

The concert will conclude with Tchaikovsky’s “Romeo and Juliet,” an overture-fantasy based on the Shakespeare play. Its gorgeous love theme is heard in numerous TV shows and movies, such as “Kim Possible,” “The Jazz Singer (1927),” “Wayne’s World,” “Animaniacs,” “Freakazoid,” “Pinky and the Brain” and “A Christmas Story.”

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