RI Philharmonic Orchestra presents Amica Rush Hour and TACO Classical concerts “The Romance of Rachmaninoff” with Conductor Ken-David Masur, Feb. 22 & 23

RI Philharmonic Youth Orchestra appears ‘side-by-side,’ Fri. Feb. 22

Conductor Ken-David Masur returns to The VETS stage for a program featuring Dukas’ The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique, and Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. The TACO Classical concert, Romance of Rachmaninoff, is on Saturday (Feb. 23) at 8 p.m.

For the Amica Rush Hour concert on Friday (Feb. 22) at 6:30 p.m., the RI Philharmonic Youth Orchestra shares the VETS stage with their professional counterparts for Borodin’s Petite Suite, Au Couvent.

 *** At a Glance ***

Romance of Rachmaninoff
TACO Classical Series Concert
Saturday, Feb. 23, 8 p.m.

Ken-David Masur, conductor
DUKAS: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
BERLIOZ: Symphonie fantastique
RACHMANINOFF: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini

 Amica Rush Hour Series
Friday, Feb. 22, 6:30 p.m.

Ken-David Masur, conductor

DUKAS: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
BERLIOZ: Symphonie fantastique
RACHMANINOFF: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini

RIPYO Side-by-Side performance
BORODIN: Petite Suite: Au Couvent in C sharp minor

Buy Tickets

Tickets start at $15 (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 (Mon.-Fri. 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m., closed President’s Day, Monday, Feb. 18). On day of concerts only, tickets are also available at The VETS Box Office (Friday, 3:30 p.m.–showtime; Saturday, 4 p.m.-showtime). Discounts are available for groups of 10 or more. Questions can be emailed to boxoffice@riphil.org.

About Ken-David Masur, conductor

Hailed as “a brilliant and commanding conductor with unmistakable charisma” by Leipzig Volkszeitung, Ken-David Masur was recently appointed Music Director of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, beginning in the 2019-20 season. He began the 2018-19 season making his debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Ravinia in two all-Tchaikovsky programs. He returned to Tanglewood to lead the Boston Symphony Orchestra in a program of Glinka, Rachmaninoff Piano Concert No.2 with Kirill Gerstein and Stravinsky’s Firebird. At summer’s end, he conducted workshops and a concert celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Mendelssohn Foundation in Tokyo.

This fall he led a subscription week with the BSO, where he continues as Associate Conductor. His guest engagements this season will include weeks with the Louisville Orchestra, the Detroit and Milwaukee Symphonies, and the Chicago Civic Orchestra, plus concerts abroad with the National Philharmonic of Russia, Collegium Musicum Basel, the Stavanger Symphony, and the Mulhouse Symphony Orchestra in France.

Other recent guest engagements include weeks with the Milwaukee, Colorado and Portland (ME) symphonies, and returns to the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, the Chicago Civic Orchestra, the Munich Symphony, where he is principal guest conductor, and to the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra in Japan. He led l’ Orchestre National de France in Paris in a program with Anne-Sophie Mutter, and regularly conducts in Germany, Korea and Moscow. As a sought-after leader and educator of younger players, Mr. Masur frequently conducts the Chicago Civic Orchestra, BUTI, and the New England Conservatory and Tanglewood Music Center orchestras.

Mr. Masur and his wife, pianist Melinda Lee Masur, are founders and artistic directors of the Chelsea Music Festival, an annual two-week long multi-media production of music, art and cuisine, which last June presented its ninth season in New York. Its productions are varied and internationally themed, always including premieres of new works by young and established composers—a celebration of the arts and senses called a “gem of a series” by the New York Times.

Mr. Masur recently made recordings with the English Chamber Orchestra and violinist Fanny Clamagirand and with the Stavanger Symphony. As founding Music Director of the Bach Society Orchestra and Chorus at Columbia University, he toured Germany and released a critically acclaimed album of symphonies and cantatas by W.F. Bach, C.P.E. Bach and J.S. Bach. WQXR recently named Masur’s recording with the Stavanger Symphony of Gisle Kverndokk’s Symphonic Dances one of the Best New Classical Releases of July 2018. Mr. Masur received a Grammy nomination from the Latin Recording Academy in the category Best Classical Album of the Year for his work as a producer of the album Salon Buenos Aires.

About the concert: stories behind the music

Paul Dukas (1865-1935)
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (Symphonic Scherzo after Goethe)

 A Disney story: Anyone who has seen Walt Disney’s 1940 animated film Fantasia has heard The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and has seen Mickey Mouse playing the title role. The music is apt for visual adaptation since it follows the story so closely. What we have is the Apprentice left alone, the Sorcerer having gone off on some errand. The Apprentice’s chore is to bring in water to fill a tub, but he thinks that by giving one of his master’s incantations he can get a broom to do his work. Sure enough, the broom obeys the spell, but the Apprentice cannot get the broom to stop bringing in water. In a panic, he takes an axe and chops the broom in two, only to have two brooms now carrying water to the tub. The house is flooded, and the Apprentice is awash in it. Suddenly, the Sorcerer appears and quickly dispatches the broom to its corner. The guilty boy is sorry but does not escape his master’s hand at the very end.

Listen for this: Yet there are aspects entirely unique to Dukas’s work, both in its brilliant orchestration and its humorous ideas. It has an unmistakable character of its own that is at once recognizable. It is interesting, too, that for Dukas, who released so few of his works to the public, this was his first music to become popular outside France and ultimately his best-known piece.

Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op.43

Liszt inspired: In early 1934, having already composed four piano concertos, Sergei Rachmaninoff set to work on yet another composition for piano and orchestra. Rather than a fifth concerto, however, this was a massive set of variations on Paganini’s famed “24th Caprice”—a theme that both Liszt and Brahms had used for famous variation sets. Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody also bore a loose relationship to Liszt’s Totentanz, not only as variations for piano and orchestra (rare in the literature), but also for its reference to the medieval Requiem chant, Dies irae, on which Liszt based his variations. (The Dies irae melody, with a text dealing with the Last Judgment, was a favorite among Romantic composers as a symbol of evil fate and restitution for sin.)

Listen for this: Although Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody is a continuous set of 24 variations, structurally it divides clearly into three large sections analogous to the three movements of a conventional piano concerto. The introduction, theme and first ten variations constitute the first “movement.” The slow section (or second “movement”) begins with Variation 11 and concludes with the famous 18th variation, in which the composer turns the theme upside down to create one of his most ravishing melodies. Variations 19-23 are the final “movement” of the work, and the climactic Variation 24 provides the finishing touch.

Hector Berlioz (1803-1869)
Symphonie fantastique

Autobiographical: Musical writers love to make connections between the life and works of composers. Sometimes there is a delicious biographical incident that has influenced a work, and with Berlioz and his Symphonie fantastique, we have a unique work that was intentionally autobiographical. In 1827, Berlioz attended an English company’s performance of Shakespeare’s Hamlet in Paris. The part of Ophelia was played by one Harriet Smithson, and Berlioz at once fell in love with her. He later wrote in his memoirs, “The impression made on my heart and mind by her extraordinary talent, nay her dramatic genius, was equaled only by the havoc wrought in me by the poet she so nobly interpreted.”

Listen for this: In the second movement, A Ball, “he encounters the loved one at a dance in the midst of the tumult of a brilliant party.” The middle section of this waltz derives from the idée fixe theme, and it reappears hauntingly near the end of the movement.