Sunday's date - the 10th of the 10th, 2010 – is inspiring a lot of numerical cleverness, and the Olympia Symphony Orchestra is no exception.
For its season opener Sunday night at The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, the orchestra has put together a program of 10s: three composers, born in 1810, 1810 and 1910 respectively. But there’s more to it than that, a musical connectivity that runs through the symphony’s entire season, “Intriguing Ties.”
“I wanted to celebrate these anniversaries,” explains musical director Huw Edwards of the three composers included in the concert: Otto Nicolai, a contemporary of Chopin born in 1810; Robert Schumann, born just one day before Nicolai in the same year; and American composer Samuel Barber, born 1910.
The program contrasts Nicolai’s famous overture “The Merry Wives of Windsor” with Schumann’s little-known Symphony No. 2 in C and Barber’s Violin Concerto, played by young Seattle-born soloist Caitlin Kelley.
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But the concert is about more than just numbers.
“Schumann has always had a bad rap (for orchestral pieces),” says Edwards of the Romantic composer better known for his sublime piano works and devastating mental illness. “He was in the shadow of Beethoven, and so on. And years ago, the second symphony was my least favorite, it’s the Cinderella of the four. Now it’s my favorite. It’s really heartening: not a fireworks display, but more like taking in a beautiful sunset. It’s Schumann coping with depression and coming out the other side. I wanted people to hear this rarity.”
The work also completes the Symphony’s previous season of country-based concerts, which missed Germany – a crucial part of the repertoire and home country for Schumann and Nicolai. To balance, Edwards decided on classical American composer Samuel Barber, and coincidentally, that violin concerto was one soloist Kelley had played with Edwards in her Seattle Youth Symphony concertmaster days.
“She’s a wonderful player, very passionate, very intriguing,” says Edwards of Kelley, who’s now studying at the Colburn School in Los Angeles and has appeared on NPR’s “From The Top.”
Connecting ties make up the rest of the Olympia Symphony’s 2010-11 season. The November concert pairs two final works by major composers: Mozart’s clarinet concerto and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6, the “Pathétique.” In February, St. Valentine’s eve is the cue for a program of passion, including Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade” and Rachmaninov’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini” with pianist Geoff Duce. The respect of Brahms for Hadyn gives the March concert an Austro-Hungarian flavor, and the final program in May offers works by Walton, Mahler, Liszt and Hovhaness based on English literature.
“It’s all about the ties between composers, between pieces or what’s behind them,” says Edwards.
Rosemary Ponnekanti: 253-597-8568, email@example.com
Music to your ears
What: Olympia Symphony directed by Huw Edwards presents “3 for 10: Nikolai, Barber and Schumann” with Caitlin Kelley on violin
When: 7 p.m. Sunday
Where: The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 512 Washington St. S.E., Olympia
Tickets: $20-$50 plus $2.50 service fee