The Stories Behind the Music for the RI Philharmonic Orchestra Concert Conducted by Jacomo Bairos, April 7

About the concert for the RI Philharmonic Orchestra’s TACO Classical with conductor Jacomo Bairos and soloist Alexi Kenney, Sat. April 7
Open Rehearsal is on Friday, April 6

 ***At A Glance ***
Romeo & Juliet
TACO Classic Concert
Saturday, April 7, 8:00pm
The VETS, One Avenue of the Arts, Providence

Jacomo Bairos, guest conductor
Alexi Kenney, violin

ROGERSON: Luminosity
PROKOFIEV: Romeo and Juliet, Suite Nos.1 & 2
KORNGOLD: Violin Concerto
MARQUEZ: Danzón No.2

Stories behind the music

Chris Rogerson 8x10c 1959

CHRIS ROGERSON (photo credit: Christian Steiner)

Chris Rogerson

A refreshing talent: Chris Rogerson (1988-) has been hailed by The New York Times as a “confident new musical voice,” and by the Washington Post as a “fully-grown composing talent.” Indeed, from a distinguished musical education at the Curtis Institute of Music, Yale School of Music and Princeton University, Rogerson, in 2012, has been honored with the Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He has won numerous awards including the Aaron Copland Award.

Backstory: Luminosity was commissioned by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. It has been performed by the Atlanta and Grand Rapids symphony orchestras and the Bach Festival Orchestra.

Listen for this: A sprightly four minutes, Rogerson’s work unleashes daring virtuosity with remarkable orchestral colors. He employs modest forces but maximizes the orchestra’s sound palette through unique uses of percussion, accompaniment figures and dynamic contrasts.

Sergei Prokofiev
Romeo and Juliet: Suite Nos.1 & 2

A rocky launch: In 1934, the Kirov Theater in Leningrad suggested to Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) that he compose a full-length ballet to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The confused and frustrating history of this great ballet started right then. As it turned out, the Kirov company backed out of its arrangement with the composer, and he signed a contract with Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet. However, after hearing the first version of the music to Romeo and Juliet, the Bolshoi declared it “undanceable” and nullified its agreement with Prokofiev.

At that point, Prokofiev decided to salvage what music he could and set about extracting the two Romeo and Juliet suites, which premiered in 1936 and 1937. Eventually, the complete ballet was produced in 1938—but in Brno, Czechoslovakia, not in Russia. Two seasons later, the Kirov Theater presented the Russian premiere.

Sequence still works: The movements of Romeo and Juliet Suites 1 and 2 are not in the order they appear in the complete ballet. However, the movements selected for this program restore some semblance of the story. The Montagues and the Capulets present a stamping main section with a contrasting middle that gently portrays Juliet.

Listen for this: The Minuet marks the arrival of guests for the ballroom scene. The Madrigal is a dialogue between the two lovers, as is the famous nocturnal balcony scene of the Romeo and Juliet movement. Dance of the Girls with Lilies is performed by instruments softly muted so as not to wake the sleeping Juliet.

Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Violin Concerto in D Major, Op.35

Not just a Hollywood composer: Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957) is well-known to classic movie buffs as the composer of scores to such adventure films as Captain Blood, The Adventures of Robin Hood and The Sea Hawk. At one time, Korngold held an honored position in European opera and concert music and was considered a wunderkind. He composed his first major work, the pantomime ballet Der Schneemann, at the age of 11 and went on to write a series of successful operas, culminating in Die tote Stadt, completed when he was only 23. Korngold got involved in Hollywood film scoring in 1934, and for a film version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, he adapted the music of Mendelssohn. He went on to compose a string of 18 original film scores—most of them swashbucklers.

Returning to his roots: His scores for films were closely aligned with the Viennese operatic stage from which Korngold had come, and his late Romantic, Wagner-cum-Straussian style fit them perfectly. Ten years before his death, Korngold abandoned film, when he discovered that his reputation in that field had damaged his image among American concert-music critics. With focused energy, he plunged into serious composition, producing over the next few years the Violin Concerto in D Major (1947), a symphony (1950) and several other works.

Listen for this:  In the first movement, notice the frequent changes of tempo, texture and mood—as in an emotional movie scene. Near the end of the movement, when the violin soloist has finished playing the unaccompanied section (called the cadenza), the first theme takes on the magnificent character of a classic movie’s “big theme.”

The finale is a jig, showing off the composer’s full range of brilliance in composing for the orchestra. Are you reminded of main title music at the opening of a classic film—particularly when the horns take up the principal theme? After the violin soloist chews up this theme by reworking it extensively, does the full-orchestra ending seem like the concerto is the sound track for rolling the end titles?

Arturo Márquez
Danzón No.2

Celebrated composer: Arturo Márquez (1950- ) was born in Alamos Sonora, Mexico. Beginning his musical training at the age of 16, he later attended Mexico City’s Conservatory of Music and the Institute of Fine Arts of Mexico. Continuing his development as a composer, Márquez went to Paris, where he worked with Jacques Castérède. At the California Institute of the Arts, Márquez studied with Morton Subotnik and Mel Powell.

Overwhelmingly received: In 1994, the National Symphony Orchestra of Mexico performed a new work by Márquez, the Danzón No.2. The audience was so enthusiastic, it demanded an encore. Commissioned in 1994 by the Filarmónica de la UNAM in Mexico City, Danzón No.2 has been performed many times in the United States.

Listen for this: This music is irresistible with its combination of long, elegant melodies and its spiky montuno rhythms.

Buy Tickets

Tickets start at $15 (including all fees), and can be purchased online at, 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, 4:00pm-showtime). Discounts are available for groups of 10 or more.