Adrian Symphony Orchestra highlights RachmaninoffWritten by Renee Lapham Collins | | email@example.com
The Adrian Symphony Orchestra (ASO) returns to the stage Sept. 30 for an “Epic Journey” through Eastern Europe, Finland and Russia.
The concert, featuring piano virtuoso Cecile Licad performing selections by Bedrich Smetana, Jean Sibelius and Sergei Rachmaninoff, begins at 3 p.m.
Born in the Philippines in 1961, Licad came to the United States at age 3. She is a graduate of the Curtis Institute and she won the prestigious Leventritt Award, an international award for classical pianists and violinists.
“After that, her career skyrocketed,” said ASO music director and conductor John Thomas Dodson.
“It is a real honor to have a chance to collaborate with an artist of her stature,” Dodson said. “As an artist, she is an explorer — an adventurer. She seeks out an interpretation of the music that is truly artistically satisfying even if it demands walking on the edge of a knife blade to pull it off. She’s always willing to risk a little more.”
Licad is well-known for her interpretation of Rachmaninoff’s “Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor,” so the program started by choosing that piece, Dodson said. Then came the other two titles, Smetana’s “The Moldau” and Sibelius’ “Symphony No. 1 in E Minor.”
“An audience member had suggested ‘The Moldau,’ which is a very popular piece, but one I hadn’t done here. After that, the Sibelius First Symphony made perfect sense in context,” Dodson said.
The three works represent three situations around a central theme of nationalism. In these works are a country yet unrealized, a country oppressed by another and, finally, an imperialistic nation toward the end of its Czarist Era, teetering on the verge of revolution, Dodson said.
The concert will begin with Smetana’s tone poem, written in 1874 at a time of great nationalistic fervor in what was then Bohemia, a part of the Hapsburg Empire. At that time, the Czech Republic did not yet exist and there had been a push to change the national language of the empire from Latin to German. But adopting the German language had unforeseen consequences, and soon much of the Empire was in revolt. Smetana, who supported Czech nationalism, decided to fight his battle on the concert stage, “writing music that utilized the Czech language and music that shared characteristics with Czech folk song and dance rhythms,” Dodson said. Smetana uses the Moldau River as a metaphor for the Czech culture and identity, encouraging the Czechs to rise up against the Hapsburgs.
The second piece performed will be Sibelius’ “Symphony No. 1 in E Minor.” Although some may interpret the music as indicative of a period of oppression, when Finland was occupied by Russia, Dodson pointed out the work is first and foremost a symphony about musical issues.
The symphony opens with a timpani roll “topped by a solitary clarinet, a long, plaintive melody that is noble and sad and isolated,” Dodson said.
As the symphony progresses, “it grows larger with grand climaxes and a remarkable course of events, unlike anything written before it,” Dodson said. “But it is also a piece filled with love of country, with nature, birds, sunsets, the Northern Lights. It absolutely captures the Nordic landscape — its isolation, tundra and vast forests: the texture of the country. The content of this symphony is imbued with Finnish nationality. It’s an incredible symphony.”
The second half of the program will feature Licad performing one of her signature pieces, Rachmaninoff’s “Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor.”
Rachmaninoff, born in 1873, wrote most of his music before he immigrated to the U.S. He toured extensively throughout the country, sometimes performing in Ann Arbor at the University Musical Society series.
“There will be people in our audience this weekend who actually heard Rachmaninoff play in person,” Dodson said
Dodson will present a pre-concert talk at 2 p.m. and a post-concert reception will occur in the lobby of Dawson Auditorium on the campus of Adrian College, 110 S. Madison St.
Tickets are available in advance by calling the ASO at (517) 264-3121 or by going online at www.adriansymphony.org. Tickets also are available at the door.