The sparkling side of Slavonic composers will be featured in the Red Deer Symphony Orchestra’s Czech Out These Bohemians concert on Saturday.
Martinu’s lively Nonet and his “irresistible” Piano Concerto are on the program at the Red Deer College Arts Centre — as is Dvorak’s celebrated Serenade for Strings.
As Red Deerians head into the shortest, darkest days of the year, this “optimistic concert should chase away any thoughts of the ‘S’ word,” predicted music director Claude Lapalme, making a coy reference to snow.
Czech-born Edmonton pianist Zuzana Simurdova, who’s known for her bright performing style, will be the guest soloist for the Piano Concerto by Bohuslav Martinu.
While this is a more serious work than Martinu’s joyous Nonet, “it still has a lot of oomph behind it,” said Lapalme, who feels the concerto is too seldom performed.
In fact, the orchestra might be premiering it in Canada, added Lapalme, who feels privileged to introduce such an energetic, yet philosophical, work to a new audience.
Martinu created music from 1910 to the 1950s — a particularly tumultuous period in history — “so it’s just a matter of circumstance” that his works aren’t as well known as those of other composers.
“A lot of other piano concertos that are played more often are not nearly as much fun as this one is,” said Lapalme.
He added the concerto’s “irresistible” last movement features a “clattering” piano and traces of the French influence of Ravel or early Poulenc.
As Martinu’s Nonet for nine musicians will show, the composer had a knack for creating interesting parts for all instruments, said Lapalme. “When he wanted to have fun, he really knew how.”
Even while Martinu was dying of cancer in Switzerland in 1959, he managed to write this exuberant chamber piece, said Lapalme, who called this “remarkable.”
Saturday’s concert will also pay a visit to the Bohemian countryside with a performance of Antonin Dvorak’s folkloric Serenade for Strings.
While the RDSO previously performed Dvorak’s Serenade for Winds, his other demanding piece will be another first for a local strings-only orchestra performance, said Lapalme.
He added Dvorak’s Serenade for Strings presents “a lot of musical problems to solve” in five movements, but “every now and then, you’ve got to do this repertoire, it’s so good.”
Lapalme believes the concert will offer a soothing remedy for the late-fall blues.