Michael Christie conducts Rachmaninoff, The Firebird, Feb. 16-17

Pianist William Wolfram performs Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No.2

The Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra welcomes guest conductor Michael Christie to the podium for Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No.2, Stravinsky’s The Firebird: Suite, and Schreker’s Intermezzo. The TACO Classical Concert is Saturday, Feb. 17, 8:00pm, at The VETS, One Avenue of the Arts. The Amica Rush Hour Concert, featuring Rachmaninoff and Stravinsky, is on Friday, Feb.16, 6:30pm, at The VETS.

“In 2013, Michael Christie made a strong impression when he led the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra in a captivating program of Schumann’s Cello Concerto and Gustav Holst’s The Planets. He is an exciting conductor who has led orchestras in Europe, Australia and the United States, and has been credited with championing commissions by leading and emerging composers,” said David Beauchesne, Executive Director of Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra & Music School. “We’re looking forward to welcoming Christie back to The VETS to explore Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky and Schreker with our Orchestra. It promises to be a remarkable night.”

Guest Conductor Michael Christie added: “This concert program says a great deal about my priorities as a Music Director—featuring guest artists that are profound musical communicators, looking at the standard repertory in an expansive way, and satisfying an unending curiosity about the legions of composers whose music deserves a place on the concert platform. I can’t wait to work with my colleagues in Providence again, soon!”


Tickets are $15-$150 (including all fees), and can be purchased online at tickets.riphil.org, in person from the RI Philharmonic Orchestra Box Office in East Providence, or by phone 401.248.7000 (M-F 9am-4:30pm). On day of concerts, tickets are also available at The VETS Box Office (Friday, 3:30pm–showtime; Saturday, 4pm-showtime). Discounts are available for groups of 10 or more

Romantic Rachmaninoff
TACO Classical Concert
Saturday, Feb. 17, 8:00pm
The VETS, One Avenue of the Arts, Providence

Michael Christie, guest conductor
William Wolfram, piano
SCHRECKER Intermezzo
RACHMANINOFF Piano Concerto No.2

STRAVINSKY The Firebird: Suite

Romantic Rachmaninoff
Amica Rush Hour Concert
Friday, Feb. 16, 6:30pm
The VETS, One Avenue of the Arts, Providence

Michael Christie, guest conductor
William Wolfram, piano
RACHMANINOFF Piano Concerto No.2
STRAVINSKY The Firebird: Suite

About Michael Christie, guest conductor

“Open to adventure and challenge”–New York Times
“Remarkable precision and flair”–Chicago Tribune
“If Michael Christie represents the future of music in this country, the future looks promising indeed.” –Cincinnati Enquirer

Christie is currently the Music Director for the Minnesota Opera. In 2011, he led the Minnesota Opera in the world premiere performances of Kevin Puts’ Silent Night, which was awarded the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Music. He conducted the European premiere of the opera in October 2014 at the Wexford Festival Opera in Ireland, and led the opera again in May 2015 with the Opéra de Montréal. Performance highlights for the 2017-18 season include the world premiere of An American Soldier with the Opera Theatre of St. Louis; engagements with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra; Rhode Island Philharmonic; Santa Rosa Symphony; and taking charge of the world premiere performances of The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs with the Santa Fe Opera. Christie champions commissions by leading and emerging composers.

His nearly 20-year symphonic conducting career has included serving as Music Director for the Phoenix Symphony (2005-2013) and Brooklyn Philharmonic (2005-2010), and as Chief Conductor for Australia’s Queensland Orchestra (2001-2004), guest appearances with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, National Symphony Orchestra, Civic Orchestra of Chicago, and the symphonies of Dallas, St. Louis, Atlanta, Houston, Minnesota, Oregon, Indianapolis and Cincinnati. His European engagements include the Rotterdam Philharmonic, DSO Berlin, Orchestre National de Lille, Swedish and Netherlands Radio Symphony, City of Birmingham Symphony, NDR Hannover Orchestra and the Czech Philharmonic.


About pianist William Wolfram
Silver medalist at both the William Kapell and the Naumburg International Piano Competitions and a bronze medalist at the Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow, William Wolfram has performed with many of the greatest orchestras of the world. He enjoys close associations with the symphonies of Dallas, Milwaukee and Phoenix, and the Minnesota Orchestra. He has appeared with the San Francisco, Saint Louis, Indianapolis, Seattle and New Jersey symphonies, and the orchestras of Florida, the Buffalo Philharmonic, the National Symphony, the Baltimore Symphony, the Colorado Symphony, the Rochester Philharmonic, the Nashville Symphony, the Oregon Symphony, the Utah Symphony, the San Diego Symphony, the Edmonton Symphony, the Columbus Symphony, and Grand Teton Festival.

About the concert: stories behind the music
Franz Schreker (1878-1934)

Victim of the Third Reich: Schreker was brilliantly successful as a composer, conductor and educator. He founded and conducted the Vienna Philharmonic Chorus for many years and ranked among the foremost of contemporary opera composers. Director of Berlin’s Hochschule für Musik from 1920-1932, he was sacked due to rising anti-Semitism. He suffered a severe stroke in December 1933 and died the following March.

Prize-winner: Schreker’s most-frequently heard concert piece, the Intermezzo was composed around the end of 1900, when he was still a student. He entered this piece and a Scherzo for strings into a competition sponsored by a Viennese publisher. He won a cash award, and the chance to be published and premiered by the Konzertverein Orchestra.

Listen for this: After the intimate emotional close focus of the strings, a surprise transition to faster music and a more cheerful mood lifts spirits, then melts into high-strings emotion.

Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)
Piano Concerto No.2 in C Minor, Op. 18

Miracle cure: Following the disastrous premiere of his First Symphony in 1897, Rachmaninoff fell into creative torpor, with the London Philharmonic waiting for a new concerto. He visited Dr. Nicolai Dahl, renowned for success through hypnosis. Rachmaninoff recalled: “I heard the same hypnotic formula repeated day after day while I lay half asleep in an armchair in Dr. Dahl’s study. ‘You will begin to write your concerto—you will work with great facility—the concerto will be of an excellent quality.’ Always the same without interruption. Though it may sound incredible, this cure really helped me.… Musical ideas began to stir within me, far more than I needed for my concerto.
At the premiere, the audience was puzzled by the concerto’s dedication to Dr. Dahl.”

Listen for this: The extreme lyrical beauty of the Second Concerto has made it one of the most popular piano concertos of this century. Most striking is the inordinate length with which the composer draws out his themes, from the beginning. Following an introduction by the solo piano resembling the tolling of bells, the strings spin out the lengthy, absorbing first theme. Listen for subsequent recurrences of each theme, containing subtle mood changes and instrumental colors.

Love theme: The third movement’s passionate second theme was popular during the 1930s and 1940s, appearing many times as a love theme in movies. Words were added in 1945 to make it the popular song, “Full Moon and Empty Arms.”

Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)
The Firebird: Suite (1945 version)

Big break: Twenty-seven-year-old Stravinsky received a commission in 1909 from Sergei Diaghilev, impresario of the famed Ballets Russes in Paris: a full-length ballet for the spring season. Stravinsky recognized the opportunity, but he worried about finishing so large and important a work on time. He had not yet collaborated with choreographer Michael Fokine, nor had he ever mingled with Parisian first-nighters such as Proust and Claudel (both of whom attended The Firebird’s premiere). During one rehearsal, Diaghilev remarked to The Firebird’s prima ballerina, “Mark him well. He is a man on the eve of celebrity.” The Firebird premiered in June 1910 and was an instant success, bringing Stravinsky worldwide fame. It remained his most frequently performed work.

Concert suites: Stravinsky made three concert suites of the music. The first was scored for the “wastefully large” orchestra (as Stravinsky put it) of the original production. In 1919, he arranged another five-movement suite for a more typical-size symphony orchestra, and in 1945 amplified some of the movements into a suite that also could be used for stage productions.

Listen for this: The movements trace the outline of the Firebird’s story, which was originally drawn from Russian folklore, with the evil King Kashchei, Ivan, son of the Czar, a princess, and the Firebird. In the Rondo (Chorovod), Stravinsky presents one of the suite’s loveliest melodies. The Final Hymn is music of deliverance and triumph.