MSO Kicks Off 2018 with a Nod to the Russians
In his 20+-year tenure with the Madison Symphony Orchestra, Conductor John DeMain has strived to make each concert meaningful in its own way. “A hallmark of my time here, “explained Maestro DeMain in a recent phone interview, “is bringing pieces to the orchestra that are lesser known by well-known composers in additional to playing standard orchestra repertoire.” In this weekend’s “Gil Shaham plays Tchaikovsky,” DeMain will lead the orchestra in a performance featuring three of the most popular and beloved Russian composers in music history, which will feature violinist Gil Shaham.
“Mr. Shaham is one of the most in-demand violinists on the stage currently,” Maestro DeMain explained. “Having him on one of our concerts has been a long time goal of ours, and we are excited to having him finally making his Madison Symphony debut.”. Shaham, who has made a name for himself internationally, can be seen in festivals and concerts on some of the world’s greatest concert stage. His is also a Grammy Award winner and has been named Musical America’s Instrumentalist of the Year.
Shaham, DeMain and the orchestra are poised to take on three difficult works this weekend. The first piece on the program is Sergei Prokofiev’s The Love for Three Oranges Suite. Based on the satirical opera of the same name, which was commissioned in 1918, the suite tells the story of a prince who is cursed to love three oranges. As he finds each orange, a princess pops out. Though the first two princesses die, the last lives and the two live happily ever after. “I love this piece. It really captures the hallmarks of the first half of the 20th century,” explained DeMain. “Prokofiev explores the full musical language from tonal to incredibly dissonant over the course of this work. The result is quite beautiful.”
Following the Prokofiev is Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, one of the best- known violin concertos in repertoire. As DeMain points out, it is also one of the most technically difficult. “In this piece, the orchestra is accompanying this beautiful and challenging line that is created by the violin,” explained Maestro DeMain. Shaham will lead the orchestra in this stunning and expressive work.
Written in 1878, Tchaikovsky wrote this piece while trying to overcome the depression brought on by the end of his disastrous 3-month marriage to Antonia Miliukova. During the time, Tchaikovsky was trying to compose his Piano Sonata in G major but was finding it difficult. While in Lake Geneva where he retreated after the marriage ending, his composition pupil, violinist Iosif Kotek, joined him. The two played a number of violin and piano pieces as a pastime, which may have been the catalyst for this concerto’s creation.
The first work on the concert is the Rachmaninoff’s Third Symphony. “I’ve always loved Rachmaninoff, “ explained DeMain. “As a pianist, I’ve always been drawn to his works. His second symphony is generally considered the best known, but I was curious to learn more about the other ones. I explored the Third Symphony, and fell in love with it. “ The piece, which was composed between 1935 and 1936, was the last symphony that he would create. It is often considered to be his most expressive and lyrical work.
When talking about the upcoming concerts, it’s hard not to sense the excitement in Maestro DeMain’s voice. “The orchestra is truly top notch,” he added. “And they love the music. It’s not just their job but it’s truly their passion. That passion shows through in everything they do. In our first rehearsal before a concert, we may read a few difficult sections under tempo once or twice but then the work comes to life like magic. Most of the process is spent fine-tuning the nuances and shaping the beauty of these works. It’s a wonderful process to witness and be part of.”
The debut of Mr. Shaham is one not to be missed, so don’t wait to get tickets! A 30 minute pre-concert talk will be led by Randal Swiggum, Elgin Young Symphony Artist Director, who will offer more insights on what to listen for during the concert. Patrons should plan to arrive early for parking and make sure that they have time to get through Overture Center’s security stations.
Here are details about the tickets:
Single Tickets are $18-$90 each and are on sale http://www.overture.org/events/gil- shaham-plays- tchaikovsky, through the Overture Center Box Office at 201 State Street, or by calling the Box Office at (608) 258-4141.
Groups of 15 or more can save 25% by calling the MSO office at (608) 257-3734. For more information, visit, https://www.madisonsymphony.org/groups.
Student rush tickets can be purchased in person on the day of the concert at the Overture Center Box Office at 201 State Street. Students must show a valid student ID and can receive up to two $12 or $18 tickets. Student rush tickets are best seats available so there may be some great seats available for the low price! More information is at: https://www.madisonsymphony.org/studentrush
Seniors age 62 and up receive 20% savings on advance and day-of- concert ticket purchases in select areas of the hall.