Rogue Valley Symphony, Masterworks 3, Nov. 12-14

The great pleasure of once again playing in front of audiences is heightened this month by the addition of single ticket buyers. Our Masterworks 3 series was conceived when we were unsure what the conditions for live performances would be. It is the last one in the series of concerts featuring smaller orchestra and chamber repertoire. I am so glad I am getting to explore this side of music making with my musicians. I hope you are enjoying it too!


Schubert’s Overture in Italian Style is a beautiful failure. It all started as a dare. Rossini and Rossiniesque composers were all the rage in Vienna. Schubert told his friends he could write a piece in that style without breaking a sweat. And so, he sat down and promptly produced two overtures. Alas! The melodies sing rather than spin, the rhythms have more umami than spice and the harmonies are some of Schubert’s favorites. I am sorry, Franz, you failed. I wish we all failed this magnificently. 


The freshly minted composer-in-residence with the Chicago Symphony, Jessie Montgomery is one of the most in-demand composers in the classical world of North America. Her music is smart and exciting, her voice new and confident. I am particularly excited to present her “Strum” to you. Jessie was trained as a violinist, so her writing for strings feels very natural, even when she pushes the boundaries. “Strum” is playful and optimistic, with just a dash of mystique. My hope is that I will convert you into a Montgomery fan!


Geniuses are often eccentric, and Percy Grainger fits the bill perfectly. His ideas oscillated between revelatory and just plain odd. Originally a piano soloist, Grainger ended up greatly influencing the development of music for bands and wind ensembles. Along the way, he also made great contributions to the field of education in the U.S. The Australian-born Grainger was one of the great collectors of folk music in Great Britain and Norway. He reminds me of Janáček as well as Ives (and to a lesser degree of Bartók) in how he lovingly and masterfully manipulates the folk music material in his compositions.


Some of Grainger’s most inspired uses of folk songs can be found in Lincolnshire Posy. He wrote this collection originally for two pianos and, at the same time, for wind ensemble. What you are hearing today is thus an arrangement of an arrangement – the music was “compacted” for woodwind quintet by the composer Philip Wharton. I thought, what a great opportunity to give a spotlight to our woodwind principals! Hearing the nice tunes, you would be forgiven for thinking that this music is easy to play. In a fact, it is anything but! Please give Katie, Daniel, Lori, Jen and Sebastian an extra big applause for accepting my challenge. This beautiful music requires a lot of effort to come alive.


Finally, the serene, everlasting beauty of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto. It certainly feels like a gift from beyond and not just because the Concerto, a late work, was published posthumously. Even if you have heard this piece many times before, I do not think you will mind hearing it again. Still, I am not taking any chances! It was thrilling to find out that we have a clarinet virtuoso living right around the corner in Eugene, who specializes in performing this piece on basset clarinet – an instrument that Mozart most likely had in mind here. Basset clarinet has a few extra notes below the standard clarinet. As a result, certain passages in this concerto do not have to be transposed. You will hear the music as Mozart intended. In Wonkak Kim’s gifted hands, it promises to deliver an exultant culmination for our November gathering. 


Two concerts with the Greenwich Symphony Orchestra coming up on November 20 & 21! I am excited for my week in Connecticut. Here is an invitation/preconcert talk that I recorded for GSO.