February 22, 2011

RPO Tackles Mighty Masterpieces

On Thursday, March 3 at 7:30 pm and Saturday, March 5 at 8:00 pm, the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra will treat you to a musical lineup of monumental proportions. Guest conductor Yoav Talmi will take to the podium to bring you Sibelius’ lush symphonic poem, Finlandia; Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4, featuring pianist Marcus Groh; and Shostakovich’s magnificent Fifth Symphony. Come to beautiful Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre and experience the full force of these awe-inspiring works.

Internationally renowned German pianist Marcus Groh has appeared as a guest artist with some of the finest orchestras in the world, including the Philadelphia Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, and London Symphony, and has garnered a reputation as one of the finest pianists in the world. Now, Groh will make his way to Rochester for what is sure to be an extraordinary performance of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4. Click here to view video of Marcus Groh in concert.

This concert will be led by charismatic Israeli conductor Yoav Talmi. Talmi has over four decades of conducting experience, and is currently Artistic Director and Conductor of the Quebec Symphony, Principal Guest Conductor of the Israel Chamber Orchestra, and Head of the Orchestral-Conducting Department at the University of Tel-Aviv Buchmann-Mehta School of Music. Talmi has served as guest conductor to major orchestras around the world, including the Dallas Symphony, Vienna Philharmonic, and Berlin Philharmonic, and has also achieved great success as a recording artist and composer.

Talmi’s interpretive artistry will be on full display with the program’s powerful finale, Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony. This classic work comes with an interesting back-story — Shostakovich lived and worked in the midst of Stalinist Russia, and, throughout his career, faced intense pressure from the Communist Party to compose nationalistic music that glorified the Soviet Union. The Fifth Symphony does indeed end with a triumphant, nationalistic march; however, many believe that there is an undertone of rebellion and protest present within the Symphony. Click here for more information on the historical context, political implications, and differing interpretations of Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony, and be sure to come to Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre March 3rd or 5th to hear the Fifth Symphony, Finlandia, and Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 performed live by your RPO.

Tickets start at $15 and can be purchased by clicking here, or by calling 454-2100.

February 17, 2011

Two Rising Stars Make RPO Debuts

This weekend, the stars will align to produce several rare occurrences: February 17 at 7:30 pm and February 19 at 8:00 pm, two female guest artists will take center stage at Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre as guest conductor Sarah Ioannides and violinist Lara St. John team up with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra to perform Hindson’s Violin Concerto, “Australian Postcards.” Both Ioannides and St. John will be making their Rochester debuts. In addition, this performance marks the RPO premiere of the Hindson Violin Concerto.

Although Ioannides will conduct the RPO for the first time this weekend, she has a prior connection to the RPO in the form of Music Director Christopher Seaman. Ioannides, who was born in Australia and raised in England, once received conducting lessons from Seaman. Christopher says, "Some years ago I gave Sarah some coaching as a conductor at the Guildhall School in London, and always believed she would succeed, which indeed she has."

Described by The New York Times as a conductor with “unquestionable strength and authority,” Ioannides is currently the music director of two American orchestras—the El Paso Symphony Orchestra and the Spartanburg (SC) Philharmonic Orchestra—and juggles her busy conducting career with motherhood. She is the mother of three young children, including twins who were born last April.

Ioannides will be joined onstage by Canadian-born violinist Lara St. John. Hailed by The Strad as “something of a phenomenon,” St. John is a critically-acclaimed soloist and recording artist, and will use her artistry and skill to depict Hindson’s evocative portrait of Australia. Use this link to view videos of St. John in concert, including footage of the adventurous star playing her violin in a hot air balloon.

In 2008, Sarah Ioannides and Lara St. John teamed up to release the one and only recording of the Hindson Violin Concerto. Now, they are coming to Kodak Hall to bring you the unparalleled excitement of live music. Also featuring Debussy’s shimmering La Mer and Stravinsky’s exciting Suite from The Firebird, this concert is sure to chase away your winter blues, and provide you with a transcendent musical experience. As a recent review of Lara St. John states, her “passionate and riveting performance [makes] the temperature rise, regardless of the season.”

Tickets start at $15, and can be purchased by clicking here, or by calling 454-2100.

February 11, 2011

Happy Valentine’s Day to Our Orchestra Couples

Over the years, there have been numerous husband-and-wife teams in the Orchestra. The first we have record of, in the late 1930s, were Dorothy (viola) and Frederick (percussion) Fennell.

In the past few years, we have written about our Concertmaster Juliana Athayde and Principal Oboe Erik Behr, who were married in September 2009, and Liana Koteva Kirvan (violin) and Lars Kirvan (cello), who were married in August 2009.

Among the other couples currently in the Orchestra are:
Jan and Dave Angus (flute and French horn)
Joanna Bassett (flute) and Mark Kellogg (trombone)
Nancy and William Hunt (violins)
Shannon and Wesley Nance (violin and trumpet)
Diane Smith (flute) and Joseph Werner (keyboards)
Patricia Sunwoo (violin) and David Brickman (violin)

In recent months, another husband-and-wife team arrived, this time even in the same section. Min Na Lee (clarinet) joined the Orchestra last season while her husband Jonathan Han continued to play clarinet with the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra. He has now moved to Rochester and is playing with the RPO while currently on sabbatical from San Francisco. He also is attending the Simon School at the University of Rochester for an MBA degree and they are expecting a baby girl in mid-April!

We checked back in with a few of the musicians to find out what their special plans are for Valentine’s Day – read on for their stories and photos.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Erik and I will be busy teaching our private students until early evening on the 14th but we plan to cook a delicious meal together. We both love cooking and have a lot of fun doing it together. We'll probably each try to surprise one another with a gift but the most enjoyable part of the evening will be just being home together. There are so many evenings that we are performing, albeit together, that we really appreciate the downtime we can enjoy at home!
– Juliana Athayde and Erik Behr
(Picture taken last December at the top of Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa)

On Valentine's Day, Jonathan will be taking midterms at University of Rochester. We are planning on having chocolate fondue at home (we just bought the dessert fondue mix from the Hershey Store at Niagara Falls) that night, with banana, strawberry, bread, and cheesecake. Unfortunately, since I am pregnant, we won't be having any wine or champagne to celebrate. We will probably have warm milk instead. However, this will be a very special Valentine's Day since this is the first time we are celebrating with our daughter.
– Min Na Lee and Jonathan Han

Mark and I (together with Rob) will be going to hear the brass and percussion chamber ensemble "Rhythm & Brass" in a concert at Ithaca College. Mark was a founding member of this group and took a year's leave from the orchestra to perform with them during 1994-95. It will be a nice chance to catch up with old friends and to introduce Rob to this part of our lives before he was born!
– Joanna Bassett and Mark Kellogg

Valentine’s Day is on a Monday this year, which is usually RPO’s day off. That also means that Monday is usually packed with kids’ activities, so among other things it means driving the four kids to school by 7:50 am. These are our kids, the kids of musicians, so like us, they do not like mornings as a general rule. While they are at school we do have some free time, so I’ll bet that if we do anything that day it will be a Valentine’s Day lunch! After school includes driving one or more kids to:

Brooke’s horn lesson
Brandon’s cello lesson
Wes teaches one trumpet lesson
Bridget’s dance class
Brianna’s gymnastics class
Brandon’s TaeKwonDo class
Brooke’s Bible study

Besides that we have homework for all kids, some kind of dinner plan, and all kids practicing on piano, as well as their primary instruments (except for Brooke and Brandon, who have lessons). Shannon and I will get away some other evening we are free and have a nice dinner out, I promise! (and she’ll still get flowers. . .)
– Wes and Shannon Nance
(photo by Kate Lemmon)

February 10, 2011

Law & Order: RPO—Don’t Miss Prokofiev’s Classic, Performed With a Twist

Originally written in 1936, Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf has become a classic tale, beloved by generations of children. On Sunday, February 13 at 2:00 pm at Performance Hall at Hochstein, you and your family will have the chance to see Peter and the Wolf as you’ve never seen it before. The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Principal Conductor for Education and Outreach Michael Butterman (the Louise and Henry Epstein Family Chair), will be joined by a bevy of actors to present Peter vs. The Wolf. This delightful production uses Prokofiev’s vivid and colorful score to enact a court case, in which the wolf gets to present his side of the story to the audience.

The playful story of Peter vs. The Wolf unfolds with the wolf pleading his innocence in the alleged “duckicide.” Each instrument is demonstrated as they are individually called into cross-examination by the wolf. By the end of the questioning, it looks as though all evidence will be thrown out, proving the wolf’s innocence. However, a turn of events lands the audience in the middle of his fate with a cunningly ironic ending. To read a synopsis of the story, click here. Also, use this link or click below to watch the Peter vs. The Wolf trailer.

Peter vs. The Wolf features a cast of amusing, engaging, and often quirky characters, played by talented local actors. Rob Kellogg (pictured), son of RPO Principal Trombonist Mark Kellogg and RPO Flutist Joanna Bassett, will play Peter. Other actors include storyteller Jay Stetzer as the Wolf, WXXI’s Chris Van Hof as the Judge, Michael Connor as the District Attorney, and Marcy Savastano as the Court Reporter. Members of the RPO will also be thrust into the spotlight as they are called on to take the witness stand and provide their musical “testimonies.”

Peter vs. The Wolf is a captivating, funny, and educational twist on a time-tested classic, and is sure to be a hit with the whole family. Tickets start at just $10, and can be purchased by clicking here, or by calling 454-2100.

February 1, 2011

An “Unforgettable” Valentine’s Weekend with the RPO!

For the upcoming Valentine's weekend, book a date with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and prepare to be swept off your feet! Friday, February 11 and Saturday, February 12 at 8:00 pm at Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre, Jeff Tyzik and the RPO welcome acclaimed vocalist Dee Daniels to the stage.

With a unique stylistic mix of jazz, gospel, and blues, Daniels - who has performed with jazz legends such as Sarah Vaughan and Lionel Hampton - will put her own special spin on the work of some of the greatest singers and songwriters in history, including Stevie Wonder, Duke Ellington, Cole Porter, Frank Sinatra, and Nat "King" Cole. Click here to see a video of Daniels live in concert.

Daniels and the RPO will perform classic songs such as Stevie Wonder's Isn't She Lovely, Unforgettable - composed by Irving Gordon and made famous by Nat "King" Cole - Bobby Troop's Route 66, Charlie Chaplin's Smile, and Don Redman's Gee Baby, Ain't I Good to You, made famous by both Nat "King" Cole and Ray Charles.

Don't miss what is sure to be an "unforgettable" evening! Child care is available at the YMCA MetroCenter for the Saturday performance - click here for details.

Tickets start at $15 and can be purchased by calling 454-2100, or by clicking here.