Anniversaries are often celebrated with gifts. The South Carolina Philharmonic is endeavoring to celebrate its 50-year relationship with the Columbia area with the gift of an extraordinary 2013-2014 season. The repertory includes such works as Verdi’s Grand March from Aida, a Brahms piano concerto, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, Borodin’s dances from Prince Igor, Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite, Gershwin’s American in Paris, Berlioz’s Roman Carnival Overture, and Dvorak’s Eighth Symphony. That’s a heavenly orchestral list for any music lover. But for the 50th anniversary, Maestro Morihiko Nakahara has added to these favorites an outstanding list of new works and artists — things you don’t get every season.
There are two world premieres: a concerto by one of America’s finest composers, Joan Tower, and an orchestral work by Columbia’s John Fitz Rogers.
In addition to its musical offerings, the Philharmonic is also giving the public some exciting partnerships with other arts groups and some ticketing changes.
The nearby Charlotte Symphony Orchestra in recent years has performed six different works by Joan Tower. Among her 70-plus works are 24 orchestral pieces, many commissioned by major orchestras across the country. The Columbia work will be a concerto for bassoon featuring Peter Kolkay, who has been the South Carolina Philharmonic’s principal bassoonist and a faculty member at the University of South Carolina, now a professor at Vanderbilt University. Kolkay met Tower when he was involved in a New Mexico performance in one of her chamber works; that ultimately led to her composing a concerto for him. Tower is scheduled to be present for the premiere on Oct. 4.
"Because of [the bassoon’s] delicacy," Tower says, "I am surrounding it with strings only to give it a chance to shine. There are three cadenzas inside that allow the bassoon to come forward alone … however, the piece does get energetic with speed and fast scales — something the bassoon does very well.”
The other world premiere is by John Fitz Rogers, associate professor of composition at the USC School of Music. He is composing a work to be premiered Jan. 11 on Beethoven and Blue Jeans night. Many will recall two previous local premieres, his Double Concerto for two pianos and orchestra, and his Magna Mysteria for soprano, chorus and chamber orchestra, which was premiered with the musical forces of Trinity Cathedral. On the same evening is Alessio Bax, playing Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 1. Bax, a Steinway artist, was in Columbia last year as an artist in the Southeastern Piano Festival, and his recent recording of piano works of Brahms is winning critical acclaim. After Brahms and Rogers, we get Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.
Violinist Saeka Matsuyama will bring the Symphonie Espagnole of Éduard Lalo on a program of Gershwin, Gatsby and All That Jazz on April 5.
On May 3, Bela Fleck is coming with his banjo to be soloist in his own Banjo Concerto. Joan Tower recently said, “I’m beginning to think we need to blur the lines more.” Some might think that a banjo concerto is really getting things blurred, but this work has been well received with other orchestras, starting with the Nashville Symphony.
Pianist Dong Kim, winner of the 2012 Arthur Fraser International Concerto Competition here in Columbia, will return Nov. 9 to play a Mozart concerto on the Mostly Mozart concert. On that same concert will be a performance of Russian composer Alfred Schnittke’s Moz–Art a la Haydn for two violins and 11 string players. In an otherwise all-Mozart evening, Schnittke’s “polystylism” adds an amusing bit of paprikash.
The seventh Masterworks concert will be in June, when the South Carolina Philharmonic will complement the Southeastern Piano Festival at USC. This first concert will bring the festival’s founder, Marina Lomazov, as soloist. The object will be to incorporate star pianists from the festival in the future.
The season is also adorned with collaborative efforts with the Columbia Museum of Art, Trustus Theatre, USC’s Southeastern International Piano Festival, and the Celebrate Freedom Foundation. Watch for details at scphilharmonic.com. There are also some ticketing changes: Children under 18 will be admitted free of charge at four of seven Masterworks concerts next season. (They’ll still need a ticket, but there is no charge.) Also, there will be $5 college student rush tickets for grand tier and balcony seating available starting at 6 p.m. on concert nights.
The last concert in the current season is on April 20, Bolero & Petrushka.
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