In ‘Russian Dreams,’ Columbia Orchestra spans the tradition
By Mike Giuliano
Baltimore Sun Media|
Oct 10, 2019 | 12:00 PM
So much great classical music has been composed in Russia that there was no shortage of repertory from which to choose when Columbia Orchestra music director Jason Love put together a season-opening “Russian Dreams” concert on Saturday, Oct. 12, at 7:30 p.m. in the Jim Rouse Theatre at Wilde Lake.
The pieces he selected are Sofia Gubaidulina’s Concerto for Orchestra and Jazz Band, Sergei Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2, and Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6, “Pathetique.”
“I’m usually not looking to do lots of all-anything concerts, but the right things lined up here,” Love said of the Russian-themed program. “The Tchaikovsky sixth symphony is something we have not done in ages. The Prokofiev second is something we’ve never done. The Gubaidulina has jazz aspects that will involve members of the Columbia Jazz Band.”
Considered in terms of the overall history of classical music in Russia, Love added that Tchaikovsky represents the 19th-century symphonic tradition, Prokofiev the 20th-century evolution of that tradition and Gubaidulina a contemporary sound.
In terms of program order, the upcoming concert opens with a 10-minute-long piece that Gubaidulina composed in 1976. Having received early encouragement from the distinguished Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich, she developed an eclectic style that pleased adventurous audiences more than it did Soviet-era cultural bureaucrats.
Among those who are most enthusiastic about it is Jason Love, who said that “It’s a really cool piece. I like her music a lot. Some of it is very animated.”
He mentioned that the piece’s original title, “Revue Music,” is an indication that “it mixes the idea of having an orchestra with a jazz band, and it’s really a stylistic mix.”
For the performance of this piece, the Columbia Orchestra will be joined onstage by members of the Columbia Jazz Band. It’s yet another example of what local audiences can expect from the recently formed administrative partnership between these two ensembles.
The lively overture will be followed by a performance of Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2. This piece received its premiere in Madrid, Spain in 1935. Although the composer adhered to a classical structure in the concerto, the music itself definitely has a modern edge to it.
Soloist for the Prokofiev is violinist Ivan Stefanovic, who has been a member of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra since 1991. Born in the former Yugoslavia, he came to the United States when he was 16 and studied at the Cleveland Institute of Music.
In addition to his longtime connection to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Stefanovic is a performer with other area groups including the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra, Pro Musica Rara, Clipper Mill Quartet and a chamber music series featuring members of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. He also teaches in the Preparatory Department of the Peabody Conservatory and Baltimore School for the Arts.
The second half of the upcoming concert feature’s Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6. It was composed in the final year of the composer’s life in 1893. Indeed, he died only nine days after its premiere. These circumstances have prompted endless speculation as to whether this symphony, and especially its concluding fourth movement, is a musical suicide note.
“The fascinating thing is that we will never know if Tchaikovsky died of cholera or was a suicide, with [this symphony] like a suicide note,” Love said. “The truth is that it’s all in the music. Whether he died of natural causes or not, the pain he felt is woven into the score. As a conductor, I’m trying to show that emotion.”
As he looks forward to kicking off his orchestra’s new season, Love said: “It’s a good way to start the season. There are a wealth of different emotions in this concert, even though the Tchaikovsky does not have the most happy go lucky ending.”
The Columbia Orchestra performs on Saturday, Oct. 12, at 7:30 p.m. in the Jim Rouse Theatre at Wilde Lake, 5460 Trumpeter Road in Columbia. There is a pre-concert lecture at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $22 and $28, $18 and $24 for seniors 60 and up, and $10 and $12 for full-time students. Call 410-465-8777 or go to columbiaorchestra.org.