In a way, every RSO concert is an opportunity for our principal players to shine. Some works, of course, are more strenuous than others, and merit that well-deserved solo bow at the end. But they all fall short of the demands a player faces when they stand in front of the orchestra to play a concerto that spotlights them, personally, as the featured soloist.
Tonight we’re proud to feature four outstanding and long-serving members of the RSO. I asked Scott Metlicka, our principal flute, to choose from the many flute concertos available, and he chose the Concerto by the French composer Jacques Ibert (great choice, Scott!). The phrase “Gallic charm” may as well have been invented to describe this delightful piece.
The trombones were a slightly different story. I can always count on Jack Simon to suggest interesting repertoire for low brass (Jack is a trombonist and a retired Professor of Music at Rock Valley College). He recommended a new concerto for three trombones by Eric Ewazen, a faculty member of the Juilliard School. The chance to show off our players was too good to pass up, and our trombones—Rick, Brian, and Mike—enthusiastically embraced the challenge of the “Triple”. Jack, thanks for the suggestion!
I programmed Beethoven’s stern Coriolan overture as part of our ongoing observance of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, featuring music inspired by his plays. Alas, the inspiration for Beethoven’s 1807 overture was not Shakespeare, but rather a now-forgotten play from 1804 by Heinrich von Collins, modeled after the Bard’s Coriolanus. Shakespeare as Muse, once removed.
The Italian composer, Ottorino Respighi, was a master of musical scene painting whose palette included both large orchestras —Pines of Rome, Fountains of Rome, Roman Festivals — and smaller ensembles — Three Botticelli Pictures, Ancient Airs and Dances, and the work featured here, The Birds. This is a suite of whimsical musical portraits of four birds who have distinctive calls — the dove, the hen, the nightingale and (of course) the cuckoo. It’s light years away from the Sturm und Drang of Beethoven’s overture, written with the intention of inducing smiles rather than arousing passions. And the fact that the same instruments, in the same theater, in the same evening can produce those effects is a testimony to the miracle of the art we call Music.