The Red Deer Symphony Orchestra will strike up some bold Beethoven and melodious Mendelssohn works for its season-opening concert on Saturday, Oct. 5.
As Central Alberta sinks deeper into autumn, the RDSO will perform a program of sunny, uplifting music — “nothing too mournful,” promised music director Claude Lapalme. In fact, the Bold and Beethoven concert at the Red Deer College Arts Centre could provide a pick-me-up for the spirits, courtesy of Felix Mendelssohn’s Overture to Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 8.
Pianist Corey Hamm will also be the featured soloist on two very different shorter works — Idée Fixe, by contemporary Canadian composer Jordan Noble, and Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra by Gabriel Fauré, a French romantic.
Lapalme describes the Noble composition as atmospheric and textural, rather than melodic. “It has some very nice orchestral colours.” But because it forces audience members to “think more,” it’s being balanced with Fauré’s Fantasy, which is “a very lovely piece by a composer whose work is always appreciated.”
He believes Hamm, a founding member of Hammerhead Consort, one of Canada’s most unique chamber music ensembles, will put on a real crowd-pleasing performance. Not only is the Edmonton native who teaches piano at University of British Columbia, a bright, energetic player, but Lapalme said he’s also a survivor.
The pianist was stricken with a neurological condition called musician’s focal dystonia, or the loss of fine muscle co-ordination in his hands. Typically, fingers will either curl into the palm or extend outward without control, but Hamm managed to overcome the condition with physical therapy.
While “it used to be the end of your career,” Lapalme said Hamm and other musicians are proving it’s no longer a life sentence.
This concert will begin with the RDSO tackling Mendelssohn Overture, which was written in 1826, very early in the composer’s career.
Lapalme said the German composer was only 17 when he composed this “incredible music, which is extraordinarily evocative of sprites and spirits” to go along with a stage production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
The RDSO’s busy violin section will depict both the delicate fluttering of fairies’ wings, as well as the comical clumsiness of the donkey-headed Bottom character in this difficult work for a full orchestra.
Beethoven fans might notice this is the third time the RDSO is performing his eighth symphony. Lapalme admitted it’s a favourite, even though it’s not at all turbulent, the emotion most often associated with Beethoven.
“It’s extremely light, energetic and very playful.”
The symphony has none of Beethoven’s slow movements “that can break your heart.” Instead Lapalme said it offers an old-fashioned minuet as a third movement, as well as a jokey second movement that imitates a metronome.
“There’s a tick-tock sound, and the whole movement is under four minutes — it’s incredibly short and meant to be humorous.”
Tickets for the 8 p.m. concert are $54.75 ($52.75 students/seniors and $39.25 youths/first four rows) from the Black Knight Ticket Centre.