Experience the masterworks of some of Russia’s greatest composers including Rachmaninoff, Mussorgsky, and Glinka when Music in the Mountains presents the Sacramento Philharmonic in Rachmaninoff’s Third Concerto, Friday, January 26 at the Amaral Center in Grass Valley. This concert is the second in an exciting new partnership forged in 2017 between Music in the Mountains and the Sacramento Philharmonic and Opera to continue to bring world-class performances to the Sacramento Valley and Sierra Nevada Foothills. Conductor Mei-Ann Chen, the first woman to win the Malko Competition in Denmark, makes her Music in the Mountains debut to lead the orchestra along with special guest piano virtuoso Andrew von Oeyen.
The evening begins in a flurry of excitement and energy with Mikhail Glinka’s favorite curtain raiser Overture to Ruslan and Ludmila. Glinka was the father of Russian music. He created a unique sound that brought together aspects of European tradition with music from Russian, Middle Eastern, Persian, and other Asian folk traditions. The story of the beautiful Ludmila who is wooed by three admirers and eventually won, after a healthy dose of sorcery both good and evil, by the fair knight Ruslan, is a revered classic in the Russian repertoire.
“One of the interesting things about the Russian Romantic school, is that it continued romanticism longer into the 20th century than did their European counterparts,” explains says Pete Nowlen, Music in the Mountains Artistic Director. “As European composers quickly turned their eyes to innovation, Russian composers such as Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev continued to compose with a somewhat conservative “Post-Romantic” voice – but incorporating all the brilliant virtuosity that was developing to answer the challenges of the 20th century.”
Taking on Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor, one of the most technically challenging piano concertos in the standard classical repertoire, is pianist Andrew von Oeyen. Hailed worldwide for his elegant and insightful interpretations, balanced artistry and brilliant technique, von Oeyen has established himself as one of the most captivating pianists of his generation. Since his debut at age 16 with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, von Oeyen has excelled in a broad spectrum of concerto repertoire — Bartok, Barber, Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin, Debussy, Fauré, Liszt, Gershwin, Grieg, Mendelssohn, Mozart, Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff, Ravel, Schumann, Shostakovich, Tchaikovsky — with such ensembles as the Philadelphia Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, and many, many more.
“One of the things that makes Rachmaninoff concerti so engaging is the immediate juxtaposition of drama and brilliance and incredible intimacy,” says Nowlen. “Andrew von Oeyen is admired for his virtuosic technique and his interpretive subtlety – both of which are required for this concerto.”
Sergei Rachmaninoff was a legendary Russian composer and pianist who emigrated to the United States after the Communist revolution of 1917, and became one of the highest paid concert stars of his time, and one of the most influential pianists of the 20th century. He is remembered as one of the most formidable pianists of all time and the last truly great composer in the Russian Romantic tradition. As a pianist, Rachmaninoff made over a hundred recordings and gave over one thousand concerts in America alone between 1918 and 1943. His concert performances were legendary, and he was highly regarded as a virtuoso-pianist with unmatched power and expressiveness. Unusually wide chords and deeply romantic melody lines were characteristic of his compositions.
“This program is great both for the Rachmaninoff devotee and for someone just getting acquainted,” explains Nowlen. “Rachmaninoff’s Third Concerto — like all his music — is instantly appealing and engaging. But for the devotee – it represents a real treat in that it is less frequently performed than the 2nd.”
If Glinka is considered the father of Russian music and Rachmaninoff was the last Great Russian composer, than Modest Mussorgsky was the innovator or disrupter of Russian music in the romantic period. He strove to achieve a uniquely Russian musical identity, often in deliberate defiance of the established conventions of Western music. Many of his works were inspired by Russian history, folklore and other nationalist themes. Such works include the opera Boris Godunov, the orchestral tone poem Night on Bald Mountain and the piano suite Pictures at an Exhibition.
Mussorgsky composed Pictures as a memorial to his friend, the Russian artist Viktor Hartmann. Shortly after the artist’s death, Mussorgsky visited a retrospective exhibit of Hartmann’s sketches, stage designs, and architectural studies and felt the need to capture the experience in music. Each of the movements represents one of the drawings or artworks on display.
Special to the evening’s events, Nowlen will host a pre-concert discussion on the images and relationships behind Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. In addition to discussing the personalities that brought Pictures at an Exhibition to existence and prominence – artist Victor Hartmann, Mussorgsky himself, Nicolai Rimsky Korsakoff and Maurice Ravel — Nowlen will provide an “Exhibit Guide” that will allow listeners to more successfully navigate Mussorgsky’s Exhibition.
KNOW & GO
WHO: Music in the Mountains presents Rachmaninoff’s Third Concerto
WHEN: Friday, January 26, 2018, Doors 6:15pm, Pre-Concert Discussion 6:30pm, Concert 7:30pm
WHERE: Amaral Center, Nevada County Fairgrounds, Gate 1, 11228 McCourtney Road, Grass Valley, 95945
TICKETS: $10/Student, $35/Top Tier, $55/Front Tier, $75/Table Seating, Tickets are available online at www.musicinthemountains.org, by phone (530) 265-6124, or in person at Music in the Mountains, 530 Searls Ave, Nevada City. Ticketing fees may apply.