I am always delighted by how many enthusiastic audience members come to the MSO’s Behind the Notes series of preconcert talks. I have a wonderful time introducing our guest speakers and it is also a great chance to catch up with subscribers to talk about the previous week’s concerts. Here’s what you can look forward to coming up at Behind the Notes:
Laurel Fay, author of a comprehensive biography of Shostakovich and a well-known scholar on Russian and Soviet composers, is part of our pre-concert activities this weekend. She will be speaking on a wonderful program featuring Shostakovich’s First Piano Concerto and Prokofiev’s Sixth Symphony. Be sure to catch her talk in the Anello Atrium at an early start time of 6:45 on Friday and Saturday evening. The concert itself has its own perks as MSO President and Executive Director Mark Niehaus picks up his trumpet and joins pianist/conductor Ignat Solzhenitsyn for the Shostakovich. I’m convinced that if anyone could, Maestro Solzhenitsyn could probably both play and conduct the work – but he has entrusted me with the conducting which has made for a fun week of rehearsals for all of us.
After this weekend, our next subscriptions start at the beginning of March as Music Director Edo de Waart returns for a fantastic four-week residency. I have not given any preconcert talks myself this year because I requested to speak on all four of these weeks so I could put together a four part series. So during these weeks, I will approach each program through the lens of how a composer communicates. At first thought, it seems rather self explanatory that a composer seeks to communicate through music. But we will be presented with a remarkable variety of works over the four weeks to compare and contrast how composers communicate – Rachmaninoff using the words of Edgar Allan Poe translated into Russian, Jenninfer Higdon using chinese bells scattered through the orchestra, Dvorak using the standard symphonic genre, Mozart using the standard concerto genre. My hope is that in looking at how composers have used music to communicate over 250 years, that we will see a natural trajectory that brings us to the final program where Maestro has programed one of the most fascinating works from the past 50 years: Berio’s Sinfonia – a work that features eight amplified singers and a seemingly random selection of every kind of text – sung, spoken, whispered, and shouted. Sufficient to say, I am having a wonderful time putting these talks together and I hope it will be an entertaining, yet thoughtful, journey for us all. See you at the hall!