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RVS takes journeys of self-discovery in season opener

The Rogue Valley Symphony’s 2018-19 season opens this week with French classical pianist Lise de la Salle’s performance of Schumann’s Piano Concerto followed by the orchestra’s performance of Leonard Bernstein’s “Overture to Candide” and Zoltan Kodály’s “Háry János Suite.”

Concerts will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 28, in the Southern Oregon University Music Recital Hall, 405 S Mountain Ave., Ashland; 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29, in the Craterian Theater at the Collier Center for the Performing Arts, 23 S. Central Ave., Medford; and 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 30, in the Grants Pass Performing Arts Center, 830 NE Ninth St., Grants Pass.

De la Salle first heard Robert Schumann’s work when she was only 8 or 9 and has recorded many of his pieces, but it wasn’t until recently that the concerto became part of her repertoire. “This is only my second series of concerts with the Schumann Concerto,” de la Salle explained. “Schumann has been part of my world for many years, but he was intimidating for many years because of his intensity.”

De la Salle said she finds Schumann’s music difficult to describe because of the intensity of the work, but she’s thought through the emotions and technical complexities of the concerto. The concerto is different from Schumann’s other works because there’s a narrative arc over the course of three movements, a minor key in the first and a major key in the last.

“He was crazy, really crazy, and he tried to kill himself by jumping into the Rhine because he was madly in love with this woman, Clara,” de la Salle said. “The last movement (of the concerto) is really playful, cheerful and very alive and not dramatic for once, which is special because Schumann can be pretty intense and quite dramatic. It’s a perfect combination of struggle and the most exciting feeling for life. It’s a very strange combination.”

De la Salle’s Schumann Concerto performance will be followed by Leonard Bernstein’s “Candide” as a commemoration of Bernstein’s 100th birthday. RVS conductor Martin Majkut calls it an easygoing, virtuosic, fun-filled piece and a journey of self-discovery. Kodály’s “Háry János Suite” is also a journey of self-discovery, a fantastical musical tour of Hungary, the court of Napoleon, Vienna and more.

Majkut wanted the first performances of the 2018-19 season to be upbeat and joyful, a segue between what he calls a momentous and gigantic 50th season and a year of new works, classics, piano and masterworks. After the five commissioned works performed in last year’s season, Majkut said he feels that new works are now part of the symphony’s vision.

“We’re doing two brand new works, two premieres. Our second program (of the season) is by a Syrian composer, Malek Jandali,” featuring Roberto Diaz on viola, Majkut said. “Malik now lives in the U.S., and he sees his country as existing only on a map; his mission in life is to preserve Syrian heritage through music.”

The second premiere of the season is a piano concerto by Chris Theofanidis, performed by Jeffrey Biegel.

Peter Serkin, who was scheduled in the 2017-18 season but was unable to perform, will be in the Rogue Valley in February to play a Stravinsky concerto, paired with Schubert’s Symphony in C Major, “Great.” Pianist Alexander Tutunov will close the season with Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3.

Livia Sohn is a guest Masterworks artist this fall, performing Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, and Kristin Kessler on oboe brings in the holiday season this winter. The symphony will go to local churches for its holiday concerts, changing the format to give audiences a new and more personal musical experience.

Last but not least, the May Discovery concert for families is “The Composer is Dead” by Lemony Snickett, performed at the Craterian Theatre.

“ ‘The Composer is Dead’ is a detective story — the composer is found dead, and everyone in the orchestra including the conductor has a motive for the murder,” Majkut explained. “It’s a musical work with excerpts from many pieces we’ll be playing through the season. The kids will love it!”

For more information on the 2018-19 RVS season, visit www.RVSymphony.org or call the box office at 541-708-6400. Ticket holders are invited to pre-concert talks given by Majkut one hour before each Masterworks performance.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Maureen Flanagan Battistella at mbattistellaor@gmail.com.


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