Pianist joins Adrian Symphony Orchestra for concert at CroswellWritten by Renee Lapham Collins | | email@example.com
Although the stereo in the background isn’t playing Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s symphony No. 40 in G minor, K.550, the melody and rhythms are ringing in John Thomas Dodson’s ears. He’s punctuating the rising and falling musical notes with his hands, maestro-style, as he hums them, describing one of Mozart’s most recognizable works.
“This is a very unusual symphony,” said Dodson, music director and conductor of the Adrian Symphony Orchestra (ASO). “It was written in the later part of Mozart’s career — just three years before he died — and even though its composition is solidly classical, one part of it is aimed forward at what might be — a new era of music.”
At the performance, the ASO will present the Mozart symphony along with Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat major” and a premiere of a work by American composer Robert Jager titled “Of Things Remembered,” from which the March 10 concert takes its name. Curtain time in the historic Croswell Opera House is 8 p.m. An hour beforehand, Dodson will talk about the music at a free classical conversation presentation in the theater. Dodson said he got the idea for the concert after receiving the composition in the mail from his mentor and friend Jager, who lives in Tennessee. The work was written for a couple Jager knows and who are known in classical musical circles for their piano virtuosity. Jager’s composition will be sandwiched between the works of two of the world’s most beloved composers. All three share symphonic themes.
“Mozart wrote two versions of the Symphony No. 40,” Dodson said. “We’re doing the original version, which has the flute, oboe, bassoon and horn. Most people never get to hear it because the second version, with clarinets, is more widely performed. The clarinets change the symphony — they darken it, but I wanted to connect the original scoring to the Beethoven concerto we’ll also have on the program, so we’ll perform the first version.”
Beethoven’s second piano concerto was the composer’s first major orchestral work, Dodson said.
“It has the same orchestration as Mozart’s 40th Symphony, so having them juxtaposed one against the other makes for an interesting concert,” he said.
Mozart and Beethoven both composed their works in 1788. Dodson said Beethoven’s piano concerto and Jager’s composition contain nods to classical composer Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) and Mozart’s concerti were the model for the Beethoven work, which gives the March 10 show an added dimension of musical history.
The Mozart symphony, Dodson said, “is very condensed in the materials Mozart uses.
“In the beginning, the famous little sighing phrase with a leap up that is then filled in with descending notes — that material pervades the whole first movement,” he said. “You hear its rhythms, its melodic shape throughout, even while he makes every measure sound fresh and new. It’s never predictable, and a closer look at the remainder of the symphony reveals that he never really leaves any of that behind. It’s the same DNA throughout the symphony — truly remarkable, innovative and unique.”
In the same way, Dodson hopes to show a progression from the all-strings sound of the Feb. 11 concert, adding winds, horns and a piano soloist for the March 10 event. This will lead to a final full complement, with brass, percussion and harp April 28 with the “Enchanted Garden” concert featuring works of Prokofiev, Williams, Respighi and Ravel. Having all three of the concerts in the Croswell, Dodson said, is icing on the musical cake.
“The dimensions of the Croswell correspond to what Mozart and Beethoven would have hoped to have had for these works,” Dodson said. “This repertoire really shows off the theater.”
Guest soloist Rieko Aizawa will make her fourth appearance with Dodson and her second with the ASO.
“She was the pianist for my first concert here as music director,” Dodson said. “She has a fabulous technique; it is very elegant and clean. She has a real sense of the classical style, it fits her temperament and what she does well.”
Even after 11 seasons with the ASO, Dodson continues to develop awareness and knowledge of the people he works with.
“I wish the audience could see the instrument cases of all the musicians,” Dodson said. “Their open cases are filled with 3 by 5 photos of kids, cats, cousins. This is a unified orchestra, but also one full of individual stories and relationships. That’s one of the gifts of this field. I’m mindful when I make music that it is steeped in the matrix of people, relationships and human beings.”
Piano virtuoso Rieko Aizawa to make second ASO appearance
Piano virtuoso Rieko Aizawa will make her second appearance with the Adrian Symphony Orchestra on March 10.
Aizawa, born in Kobe, Japan, moved to the United States just after her 15th birthday to study at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where she completed her undergraduate degree. She earned her master’s degree from The Juilliard School in New York City, entering graduate school at the age of 19.
“Because of visa restrictions I had to finish high school and Curtis at the same time,” she said.
Although her aunt was a piano teacher, Aizawa is not from a family of musicians and really didn’t plan to be a concert pianist.
“I actually wanted to quit piano when I was about 13,” she said. “I’m glad I didn’t. Coming to the states and working with wonderful teachers and colleagues definitely changed my life. It made me realize how inspiring music is for me; it allows me to keep working and growing.”
Aizawa said music is “a big palette of colors which you don’t see but which let you feel emotional nuances.”
For the March 10 concert, Aizawa will be playing one of her favorite composers, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 in G-minor, Kv. 550, along with Ludwig van Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 2. The Mozart symphony, one of the last three he would write, was composed for piano
“I love Mozart,” she said. “I also love Schubert, Schumann and Brahms, especially his chamber music. I enjoy listening to Stravinsky, too.”
Aizawa said when she prepares for a concert, such as the one on March 10, “You can’t avoid actual physical practice, of course, but even if I’m working on a piece I’ve already performed before many times, I always try to find ways to experience it in a fresh way.”
Her gigs take her around the world. Each year is different, but she said, she usually performs 50-60 times a year, as far away as Japan, where she will visit her parents and as close as New York City, where she now calls home. One of her most memorable concerts was performing a Mozart concerto in Vienna’s Konzerthaus. Mozart was born in Salzburg, Austria.
“It was a wonderful experience,” she said. “I’ve also performed Ravel’s concerto in Russia with [ASO] Maestro [John Thomas] Dodson several years ago and that was a memorable country to visit in many ways.
“I’m looking forward to collaborating with him and his orchestra again in Adrian,” she said.
If you go:
- What: “Of Things Remembered” concert
- Who: The Adrian Symphony Orchestra
- When: 8 p.m. March 10.
- Where: Croswell Opera House, Adrian
- Tickets: Premium seating: $25 adults, $23 seniors, $13 students; General seating: $22 adults, $20 seniors, $10 students. For ticket information and to purchase tickets, visit www.adriansymphony.org.