Music at its best can either help us tap into our deepest emotions or provide a necessary release from them. Examples of both can be found on this weekend’s MSO performances at the Basilica of St. Josephat. (Performance Information) I am very excited to lead the MSO in a program that varies between the extremes of emotional intensity and true musical entertainment.
The program will open with Bach’s Second Brandenburg Concerto for violin, flute, oboe, and trumpet. It’s delightful entertainment for the audience, but a tour de force for our amazing principal trumpet, Mark Niehaus. Its sustained passage work in the stratosphere of the piccolo trumpet still leaves me in awe after this week’s rehearsals. I’m glad to just be on the harpsichord for the wild ride.
We then continue with Pēteris Vasks’ String Symphony. I’ll let him sum up what his music is about:
Most people today no longer possess beliefs, love and ideals. The spiritual dimension has been lost. My intention is to provide food for the soul and this is what I preach in my works. – Peteris Vasks
The symphony is subtitled “Voices”, and the three movements are “Voices of Silence”, “Voices of Life”, and “Voice of Conscience”. Fortunately, joined together with these sweeping ideas is music that communicates strongly and directly to its audience. What I love about the work is the intention in the writing. Big pauses, moments of chaos, or special effects in the music contribute to a larger dramatic and spiritual world – and the environment and acoustics of the towering Basilica lend themselves well to it. It should be quite an experience and provide plenty of food for thought.
We return to the lighter side of things with Handel’s Water Music Suites. Sometimes the idea of “entertainment” gets a bad rap in the classical music world as it is compared with “shallow” music, but it shouldn’t when done well. This music was written for King George I and played during a royal cruise on the River Thames. The king loved it then and the popularity hasn’t dwindled since. Its success can be attributed to many things. Personally, I think the genius is in the unique character of each of the short movements that make up the suites – within the opening seconds of each movement Handel presents a distinct rhythmic feel and a very memorable melody above it. (Perfect example: the “Hornpipe”) What more could we ask for?
All musicians have certain pieces that give them a special feeling. Like having coffee with a close friend or watching your favorite movie for the 100th time… One of those pieces for me is Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll. I remember first studying the piece during one of my visits to Italy. I was part of a very stressful conducting masterclass and combined with the hassles of being in a strange country, I was feeling alone and confused on a daily basis. Out of all the repertoire I was studying, Siegfried Idyll was the only one that would calm me down. I still feel it as the musical equivalent of a gentle pat on the back or arm around the shoulder accompanied by, “Don’t worry. Everything is going to be fine.” And we all have days where that’s exactly what we need…
Hope to see you this weekend!
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