Edmonton-based pianist Mikolaj Warszynski performs with the Red Deer Symphony Orchestra as part of the Romance of Chopin concert Saturday

Romance in symphony

Some musical hearts and flowers will be sent out to the audience, courtesy of the Red Deer Symphony Orchestra. The Romance of Chopin concert, on Saturday, Jan. 17, at the Red Deer College Arts Centre, can be thought of as an early valentine to listeners. The program consists of the passionate Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Minor by Frédéric Chopin, the beautiful and melancholy Valse Triste by Jean Sibelius, and the ear-candy-ish Sinfonia Concertante in E-Flat Major, by Johann Christian Bach.

Some musical hearts and flowers will be sent out to the audience, courtesy of the Red Deer Symphony Orchestra.

The Romance of Chopin concert, on Saturday, Jan. 17, at the Red Deer College Arts Centre, can be thought of as an early valentine to listeners. The program consists of the passionate Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Minor by Frédéric Chopin, the beautiful and melancholy Valse Triste by Jean Sibelius, and the ear-candy-ish Sinfonia Concertante in E-Flat Major, by Johann Christian Bach.

The three pieces should provide a dreamy, melodic evening at the symphony, said RDSO music director Claude Lapalme.

Chopin is the most romantic of the Romantic composers, and much of the tenderness associated with his music — as well as its more fiery side — is showcased in his Piano Concerto No. 2. It will feature pianist Mikolaj Warszynski.

Although raised in Edmonton, Warszynski was born in Chopin’s native Poland and has performed as soloist around the globe, including North America, Europe and South Korea — where he’s a visiting instructor at the Seoul Conservatory of Music.

Much will be demanded of Warszynski in this complex concerto, but other orchestral instruments will act mostly as background accompaniment for the piano, said Lapalme.

Since Chopin only wrote two piano concerti, compared to his bulk of solo piano compositions, this is a momentous work, he added. The “extraordinarily” emotional concerto also wears its heart on its sleeve: “It’s like, I love you, I hate you. I’m sad, I’m happy,” said Lapalme, with a chuckle. “You can’t get more romantic than that. …”

After a dramatic start, the tune’s tempo slows for a more poetic second movement. The third is a mazurka, or Polish folk dance. “There’s a horn call, almost like a hunting call, and it ends in a flurry, a torrent of notes. It’s a very bright movement,” said Lapalme, who believes most people don’t associate Chopin with this kind of exuberant melody.

The composer, who died at age 39 of a consumptive lung disease, is most often thought of as reflective writer, but had an innovative and varied style. For instance, Lapalme said audience members might want to listen for Chopin’s “odd quirk” — of adding a single bass trombone to the two horns and two trumpets in the horn line, giving some more punch or strength to the melody. “It’s unusual but it works.”

The Sibelius piece, titled Slow Waltz, also feels very Chopin-esque. Lapalme said the 20th-century composer creates a very romantic melody in “all shades of grey.” The short piece is melancholy, intimate, beautiful “and very, very wistful.”

By contrast, Johann Christian Bach’s Sinfonia Concertante is a bright, sunny, Rococo spectacle.

The lavish piece, written by Johann Sebastian Bach’s youngest surviving son, is easy listening in the extreme. “Not to sound too clever, but it’s music that’s made to please,” said Lapalme. “It’s never complex, but it’s extremely well done, technically perfect writing.”

This kind of chocolate-box-pretty music proved influential to other composers, so listeners might hear some melodious strains that are reminiscent of Mozart’s work, which came later.

Tickets to the 8 p.m. concert are $59.35 ($54.85 seniors/$43.35 students or first four rows) from the Black Knight Ticket Centre.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

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