The Joslyn Sings with the Sounds of the Omaha Symphony
September 24th, 2015
Omaha, NE — Castanets, a concerto, and a chamber orchestra walk into a museum.
The Omaha Symphony’s first Joslyn concert of the season transports the audience to the Iberian Peninsula with selections from Robert Gerhard and a man known as the Spanish Mozart, Juan Crisóstomo de Arriaga. Also on the program is the “Violin Concerto No. 2” by Sergei Prokofiev, featuring Concertmaster Susanna Perry Gilmore as soloist. Gilmore says the concerto should be well suited to the smaller ensemble and intimate atmosphere at the museum.
“I am very curious to hear how the piece will come together in the Joslyn. I think it’s going to be very cool. It’s often done in big concert halls, but his instrumentation is precisely the instrumentation for the classical symphony so it’s going to be done with smaller forces.”
Compared to his first concerto, Prokofiev’s second is more melodic and conservative. The composer was homesick and wrote music he thought Soviet officials would find acceptable.
“For a while he was being heavily recruited by the Russian authorities to return to Moscow and he wanted to. His more melodic-based style…for instance the early piano concertos…it was a deliberate effort, and it was certainly more along the party line. He loves the classical form of canons. There’s a lot of dialogue between different groups of instruments playing the same melody but displaced by one or two beats. It’s a very cool and slightly uneasy effect.”
Ever the musical storyteller, Prokofiev opens the concerto with a musical “once upon a time”…
“The start of the piece – I think it’s quite stunning because the violin starts all alone It’s softly saying, ‘I’m going to tell you a story.’ It’s very evocative of a Russian melody and folk music from far, far away. Then, quickly, that theme is transformed and the rest of the first movement kind of drives using that same thematic material. The second movement is some of the most beautiful music in the world ever written. I would put it right up there with his best piece ever, the Romeo and Juliet ballet. It’s this heavenly melody that I think makes all violinists want to play this piece. And there are beautiful melodies all the way through. In the last movement, he tips his hat towards Spain, where it premiered, by throwing in some castanets and throwing in some rhythms that’s evocative of a very dancy, boisterous movement.”
Susanna Perry Gilmore and the Omaha Symphony perform Prokofiev and more this Sunday, September 27 at 2 pm in the Joslyn Art Museum’s Witherspoon Concert Hall. More information is available at omahasymphony.org.
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