Violinist Bella Hristova joins the Rogue Valley Symphony for performances of music by David Ludwig, Hector Berlioz and Felix Mendelssohn. [Photo courtesy of RVS]

A celebration of all things about love

The Rogue Valley Symphony will explore love in its many forms in its November series of concerts inspired by the greatest of human emotions.

And one of symphony music’s young, bright stars, violinist Bella Hristova, is at the center of it all — returning to the Rogue Valley to perform a piece written as a love letter to her by her husband, composer David Ludwig.

"He has hidden little bits throughout the piece, our initials are in there. It’s very sweet that it's being called a love letter,” Hristova says.

Hristova will join RVS to play Ludwig's Violin Concerto, co-commissioned by the symphony, for its 50th anniversary season. Hector Berlioz’s Overture to Béatrice et Benedict, and Felix Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 5 “Reformation” round out the program.

Concerts will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 10, in the Music Recital Hall, 405 S. Mountain Ave., on the Southern Oregon University campus in Ashland; at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 11, at the Craterian Theater, 23 S. Central Ave, Medford; and 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 12, at the Craterian. There will be no Grants Pass performance.

Tickets range from $36 to $55 for the Ashland concert and $15 to $48 for the Medford concerts. Tickets are $15 for ages 6 through 22 at all shows. Tickets can be purchased at rvsymphony.org or call 541-708-6400.

Ludwig's Violin Concerto includes 13 measures from a piece originally written by Hristova's father, Russian composer Yuriy Chichkov.

“He died when I was 4. I never got to hear the piece,” she says of her childhood. Having her father’s music in the concerto about a wedding made it deeply personal.

Ludwig's concerto has a demanding solo part with virtuosic strains evocative of the Eastern European influence infused into the Chichkov's piece, originally commissioned and written as a wedding song.

It was played when Hristova and Ludwig married in 2015.

"It was as though my dad was present for our marriage,” she says.

Hristova was born in Bulgaria, so Ludwig’s incorporation of Bulgarian folk music into his work is a loving tribute, says RVS music director and conductor Martin Majkut in a press release.

"He put a lot of depth behind even simple gestures. This work is just a beautiful love letter to his wife.”

"It starts with just six notes played by me, and then it gets very big with the entire orchestra,” Hristova says. “Marriage is a big change. You go from being one, and then you merge. That's why it starts with a big sound. There’s some heavy parts and beautiful parts and soft-spoken parts.”

Hristova's last performance with the Rogue Valley Symphony Orchestra was in 2014.

"I love Oregon," she says. "It’ll be my third time back. I was there in 2008 as well. It’s a beautiful part of the country. Ludwig has never been, so we're both very excited. I'm hoping to get to Crater Lake, and there's an In-N-Out Burger in Medford. They don't have those back East.”

Majkut looked for additional pieces with love themes for the program, and he found one in Berlioz' opera based on William Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing."

But the concerto created by Ludwig and inspired by love is getting the biggest buzz.

"The whole piece is a kind of wedding on stage,” Hristova says. “The first movement is a collection of dances. The second, 'Ceremony,' is the wedding, and the last is 'Festival,' a celebration of everything we’ve just heard in the first two movements. It also includes a lot of beautiful dances.” 

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