Wang Intro

Severance Hall
November 29 – Friday at 8:00 p.m. 

November 30 – Saturday at 8:00 p.m. 
December 1 – Sunday at 3:00 p.m.


Fruit, Dance & Metaphor

This week’s concert presents four musical works, two by Russian composers and two by Frenchman.  One is derived from an absurdist (shall we say “metaphoric”?) opera.  One is a piano concerto of unexpected qualities, filled with vigor and melody.  Another was to be a short sinfonietta, but grew larger while keeping that name.  And the last depicts the smashing and crashing of eras — as a paean to a dashingly elegant dance form.

Russia and France have had an off-again, on-again relationship for many centuries, including or especially in the arts.  The Czars yearned for acceptance as a great European power and for long stretches mirrored French tastes and elegance as the most refined.

The concert begins with a suite of music from Sergei Prokofiev’s opera The Love for Three Oranges.  Originally premiered in Chicago in 1921, the opera was penned during Prokofiev’s two-decade sojourn away from his homeland.  This is fun-filled music, infused with rhythms and colorful orchestration.

Next comes Rachmaninoff’s Fourth Piano Concerto with soloist Yuja Wang.  While never entirely neglected, this is the least well-known of the Russian composer’s five works for piano and orchestra.  It met some resistance when first performed, from audiences and critics who wanted something easier and more like Rachmaninoff’s earlier concertos.  Yet it is well worth experiencing its deft sense of balance and athletic daring.

After intermission, guest conductor Lorenzo Viotti offers French views on two Germanic musical forms:  the symphony and the waltz.  First comes Francis Poulenc’s Sinfonietta, originally written for the BBC.  Its four movements offer a spiritedly modern (but at times gentle) take on a symphony.

The concert closes with an exhilarating work by Maurice Ravel, portraying in a very musical way the cataclysm that was World War I — and the destruction of the previous century’s society epitomized by the danceform of the grand Viennese “waltz.”  Here La Valse depicts the calamity of a whole musical world whirling, whittled, and whirled to its end.   

Eric Sellen