The Red Deer Symphony Orchestra’s season-opening concert on Saturday is all about the solitude and majesty of the Great White North.
The other North, that is.
The RDSO performance at the Red Deer College Arts Centre will feature monumental works by Russian, Finnish and Norwegian composers Prokofiev, Sibelius and Grieg.
But they also knew something about cold, isolation “and all that northern stuff,” said the RDSO’s music director, Claude Lapalme.
The show’s title is We The North because Lapalme once saw an exhibit of Nordic European art and was struck by the similarity to Canadian works. Artists in sparsely populated northern countries seem to “share those neo-Romantic ideas about solitude and space,” he recalled.
Not only did Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev have to battle harsh winters, he also had to extricate himself from the post-revolutionary Soviet Union. Yet the celebrated composer eventually returned to his homeland as a “hero” after living in Paris and America.
And his Sinfonia Concertante, which was written just before his death near Red Square, contains many light-heart, even humorous moments — especially in the last movement, said Lapalme.
The guest cellist who’s taking on this landmark work is Arnold Choi, a principal with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra. Described as having a rich tone and muscular style, Choi has played as a soloist throughout North America, Europe and Asia since launching his music career with a solo recital tour of Mexico at the age of 14.
A former member of the award-winning Janaki String Trio, Choi has performed at Carnegie Hall, the Lincoln and Kennedy Centres and has toured Australia and released two albums.
Lapalme said Choi chose Prokofiev’s Sinfonia Concertante because it’s so notoriously difficult that it’s seldom performed. The symphony-concert was written as show of respect for the stellar talent of the 22-year-old cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, who premiered it in 1952.
Other northern works on RDSO’s program are Finlandia, an epic homage to Jean Sibelius’s frosty homeland, and selections from Edvard Grieg’s colourful and illustrative Peer Gynt Suite.
Lapalme believes concert-goers will enjoy something familiar and something new in this easy-on-the-ears concert, which opens the doors to an eclectic season of symphonic music.
Czech works are on the RDSO’s bill in November, followed by a Christmas concert featuring the Rosedale Valley Strings. There’s Broadway music in January, “Canada on Canvas” in February, a Baroque sampling in April and a colossal Russian finale planned for June.
For tickets to the 8 p.m. show, please contact the Black Knight Ticket Centre.
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