KEEPIN’ IT CLASSICAL: Passionate nationalism and minimalism

By on July 15, 2015

Guest artists bring this week’s GTMF programming to life

Family Friendly Concert with Alisa Weilerstein
11:30 a.m., Wednesday at Teton County Library’s Ordway Auditorium.

Tickets are free but must be reserved

Cello prodigy Alisa Weilerstein is one of two of Grand Teton Music Festival’s featured “Artists in Residence” this year. The program is new in to festival programming, as it seeks to expand audiences and reach deeper into the community. Wednesday’s family-friendly concert at the library is designed to offer patrons who, may otherwise find it difficult to attend a weekend concert in the village the chance to experience GTMF. Weilerstein is a young and rising star and a widely-celebrated talent in the classical music world. She won the Lincoln Center’s 2008 Martin E. Segal prize for exceptional achievement and the 2006 Leonard Bernstein Award, to name only a couple of her many academic and professional recognitions. From the White House to the valley, Weilerstein brings passion, intensity and emotionally evocative performances to the stage. She brings a hip, youthful edge to her place as a prominent soloist in the classical music world. Wednesday’s programming will be fun and informative, with the repertoire to be announced from the stage.

Chamber Music: Juon & Brahms
8 p.m., Thursday at Walk Festival Hall
$25 for adults, free for students and $15 day-of rush

Russian-born composer Paul Juon and German hard-hitter Johannes Brahms are on the bill for Thursday’s chamber music concert. Juon’s “Piano Sextet in C Minor” is the opening act. Written for five strings and piano, it’s orchestral in nature and sounds inherently bigger than it appears on paper. Juon was the son of Swiss parents who immigrated to Moscow, where he was born. He studied at the Moscow Conservatory before accepting a post as Composition Professor at Berlin’s Hochschule für Musik in 1906, later moving to Switzerland, where he spent the rest of his life. As a result of his mixing-pot upbringing, it’s hard to pinpoint Juon’s music to one country of origin or influence, with Russian strains evident in his early work but fading away in his late career. Juon is, however, credited as the link between Russian composers Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky during the late Romantic era as it hurled towards the turn of the 20th century. Johannes Brahms is also a force. The German composer is considered one of the “Three Bs,” alongside Beethoven and Bach. Brahms was a gifted piano player and his work for piano often reflects that in its technical difficulty. His “Piano Quartet in G Minor,” performed Thursday, premiered in Hamburg in 1861 by the musically talented Clara Schumann, wife of Robert Schumann and close friend and influence on Brahms.

Festival Orchestra: Triumph & Fanfare with Guest Conductor Cristian Macelaru – Glinka, Dvorak & Copland
8 p.m., Friday and 6 p.m., Saturday at Walk Festival Hall; Open rehearsal 10 a.m., Friday
$25-55 and $15 day-of rush

Russian composer Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka’s overture to his opera “Ruslan and Ludmilla” opens the weekend’s programming. Glinka (1804 – 1857) spanned the late classical period into the early Romantic, and during his youth Western music dominated Glinka’s home Russian concert halls, and the composer’s early work reflects this. With “Ruslan and Ludmilla,” however, Glinka settled back into his roots and created his signature “changing background technique,” in which a simple Russian folk melody is repeated many times without variation, as shifts in the orchestral accompaniment act as the progression for the melodic theme. “Ruslan and Ludmilla” centers on the brave knight Ruslan’s rescue of a nobleman’s daughter, Ludmilla, who had been captured by an evil dwarf, Chernomor. The overture is based on the music for the opera’s closing wedding scene for the title characters. Glinka uses the whole-tone scale as a musical theme for Chernomor, and the composer is credited with being the first to apply the whole-tone scale in such a way.

Romantic composer Antonin Dvorak’s “Cello Concerto in B minor” is festival guest artist Alisa Weilerstien’s chance to shine under the direction of this weekend’s guest conductor Christian Macelaru (associate conductor at the Philadelphia Orchestra). This Concerto is Dvorak’s most popular work behind the “New World Symphony,” and it was written during the Czechoslovakian composer’s 1892-1895 tenure as director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York City. It’s an emotionally intimate masterpiece, completed just after the death of Dvorak’s first love, dear friend and sister-in-law Josephina Kaunic.

Modern American Composer Aaron Copland’s “Symphony No. 3 is the finale to the weekend programming. It is the longest on all his concert pieces and is prolific in its use of uniquely Copland musical signatures: there are four grandiose movements, with constantly changing lines, unexpected rhythms, and in this case, no references to folk or popular material (another signature of Copland’s style). The symphony is distinctly original, lush and evocative, and has become an idiomatic American work of classical music repertoire.

Inside the Music: Architects of Music, with Francesco Lecce-Chong
8 p.m., Tuesday at Walk Festival Hall
Free admission

Tuesdays are informative, educational and fun concerts designed to give audiences a little insight into the background and details of featured work. This Tuesday’s “Inside the Music” program delves into works that powerfully shaped the musical landscape and genres in which they were written, from Estonian contemporary composer Arvo Part’s beautifully minimalist “Fratres” for cello and piano to a selection from J.S. Bach’s celebrated six Brandenburg Concertos “Concerto No. 3 in G Major.”

Madelaine German is a Jackson Hole musician. She grew up studying classical voice and piano and studied the same in college. Now she plays in more modern style, but remains a lover of all music genres with a special place in her heart for the work of the classical masters.


About Madelaine German

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