Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Grand Rapids Symphony Presents an Evening of Passion and Romance

Music lovers will be able to hear the musical passion when the Grand Rapids Symphony presents a special evening of romantic works close to Valentine’s on Friday, Feb. 18 and Saturday, Feb 19, at 8 p.m., in DeVos Performance Hall.

Tickets start at $18 and are available at the Symphony office, weekdays 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., 300 Ottawa NW, Suite 100, (located across from the Calder), or by calling 616/454-9451, Ext. 4. (Phone orders will be charged a $2 per ticket service fee, with a $12 maximum.) Tickets are available at the DeVos Place and Van Andel Arena Box Offices, weekdays 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., or on the day of the concert two hours prior to the performance. Tickets may also be purchased through Ticketmaster, at ticketmaster.com, 1-800-982-2787, online at www.grsymphony.org, or in person at Ticketmaster outlets: select D&W Fresh Market, Family Fare Stores and Walmart. Student Passport tickets are available for this concert.

Guest conductor Christoph Campestrini will lead the Grand Rapids Symphony in the concerts, which will feature a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 by accomplished Slovenian pianist Dubravka Tomsic. Other musical highlights will include selections from two of the most romantic love stories ever told: “Tristan and Isolde” and “Daphnis and Chloe.” These concerts are part of the Richard and Helen DeVos Classical Series.

The first half of the program will feature Dimitri Shostakovich’s “Festive Overture” and Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No 1. After being condemned for the second time by the Soviet regime in 1948, Shostakovich had all but given up composing. But a year later the Bolshoi Theater found itself without a new composition celebrating the 37th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, so it turned to Shostakovich. He penned the triumphant “Festive Overture” in just three days, and it has since become one of the most popular orchestral and symphonic wind overtures ever written.

Written around 1874, Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 was initially dedicated to pianist Nikolay Rubinstein, but it was not well received and even rejected by Rubinstein. Scratching out Rubinstein’s name from the score, Tchaikovsky rededicated it to Hans von B├╝low, who commented that “the ideas are so original, so noble, so powerful, and the details so interesting.” To this day its thundering presence is one of the most loved and popular of any work.

The concert’s second half will feature two romantic pieces loved the world over: the magical musical stories of legendary lovers Tristan and Isolde, and Daphnis and Chloe.

Richard Wagner’s “Prelude and Liebestod,” from his opera “Tristan and Isolde,” is the opening to a tale of intense romantic yearning written while the composer was in the throes of an affair. It tells the story of Tristan, who retrieves Isolde for his king but inevitably ends up falling in love with her. The Prelude consists of never-resolving harmonies that echo the beautiful longing of the lovers, which is taken over by Liebestod (Love-death) that contains the melodic material from the famous second act duet between Tristan and Isolde.

Maurice Ravel’s Suite No. 2 from “Daphnis and Chloe” will complete the program. Originally commissioned by Sergy Dyagilev and written as a ballet, “Daphnis and Chloe” tells the story of two lovers who mime the ancient story of “Pan and Syrinx,” in which Syrinx rejects the declared love of Pan. The story ends happily with Chloe falling into her lover’s arms, and a joyous tumult and wild dance ensues. Although the ballet was not originally considered great success, the music remains some of the most beautiful and evocative of the 20th century and is a mainstay of the virtuoso orchestral repertoire.

Slovenian pianist Dubravka Tomsic gave her first public recital at age five and has since given more than 4,000 performances worldwide. She moved to New York when she was 12 and enrolled at the Juilliard School. Although considered a pianist of legendary stature in many countries, it was not until 1989, after a hiatus of almost 30 years, that she was reintroduced to American audiences. She has been performing and teaching to great acclaim ever since.