Pianist Anne-Marie McDermott performs Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 2
Concert highlights Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 10 and RI premiere of a celebrated composition by William Grant Still for thoughtful Veterans Day reflection.
PROVIDENCE, RI—Bramwell Tovey takes to the podium for his third concert of the Orchestra’s 75th season featuring the Rhode Island debut of soloist Anne-Marie McDermott performing Tchaikovsky’s exuberant Piano Concerto No. 2. The concert also includes a celebration of Veterans Day with the RI Philharmonic Orchestra’s debut performance of William Grant Still’s intriguing In Memoriam: The Colored Soldiers Who Died for Democracy and Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 10.
“As our 75th anniversary progresses, we continue to present soloists of the highest caliber. Anne-Marie McDermott is a world recognized pianist who has performed with the world’s best orchestras. We are thrilled to have her musicality and passion here to perform Tchaikovsky’s powerful Second Piano Concerto. It is a complex piece often missing from orchestral programs but under the dynamic interpretation of Ms. McDermott, it will be truly inspirational for our audience.”
Tchaikovsky began work on his Concerto for Piano N0. 2 in the fall of 1879. Following on his iconic First Piano Concerto, he hoped to convince the great pianist Nikolai Rubenstein, a longtime friend, to debut the piece. Unfortunately, Rubenstein’s unexpected death in 1881 made the wish impossible. The notoriously difficult concerto displays many virtuosic passages throughout its three movements which reinforce Tchaikovsky’s reputation as a symphonic master.
In Memoriam: The Colored Soldiers Who Died for Democracy receives its Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra debut. The composer, William Grant Still (1895–1978), had a long career with more than 150 works, including five symphonies and eight operas. He is often referred to as “the dean of African-American composers.”
“Our November program showcases a seemingly broad range of subjects but in reality it highlights many more similarities,” Artistic Advisor Bramwell Tovey explains. “Bringing Still and Shostakovich together to celebrate Veterans Day is highly intentional. Both men struggled with commercial acceptance against the backdrop of artistic and political persecution. They wished to proclaim their personal patriotism, and the ideals of their nations through emotional pieces that also recognize their country’s faults. Each piece is a unique testament to the human spirit in the face of great adversity.”
In 1943, Still was approached by the League of Composers to commemorate the on-going war. He sought to portray the experience of African-American soldiers who showed courage and sacrifice for their country on the battlefield, yet were subject to oppression and inhumane treatment on the home front. Still reflected on the inspiration for his slow march, stating: “Our civilization has known no greater patriotism, no greater loyalty then that shown by the colored men who fight and die for democracy. Those who return will, I hope, come back to a better world.” His vision of America’s ideals juxtaposed with the truth that his country did not treat these soldiers as equal to their white counterparts is a key theme intertwined in this patriotic hymn to African-American sacrifice during the war.
Like Still, Shostakovich sought to portray intense patriotism while expressing a stark feeling of persecution in his Tenth Symphony. He chafed against the Stalinist mandate that music should have a political purpose, promote nationalism, praise the state’s leaders and idealize past heroism. This struggle was evident in his music, which caused him to fall in and out of favor with the Communist Party throughout his career. The Tenth Symphony is a monumental work. Upon its debut, the New York Times hailed it as “the strongest and greatest symphony that Shostakovich has yet produced. One would say that it is the first score in the symphonic form that proclaims the complete independence and integration of his genius.”
The TACO Classical Series concert is on Saturday, Nov. 16, at 8 p.m. The Open Rehearsal is on Friday, Nov. 15, at 5:30 p.m. Both concerts are at The VETS.
***At a Glance ***
Saturday, Nov. 16, 8 p.m.
The VETS, One Avenue of the Arts, Providence
Bramwell Tovey, conductor
Anne-Marie McDermott, piano
STILL: In Memoriam: The Colored Soldiers Who Died for Democracy
TCHAIKOVSKY: Piano Concerto No. 2
SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 10
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 Veterans Day, Nov. 11). 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.
Friday, Nov. 15, 5:30 p.m.
The VETS, One Avenue of the Arts, Providence
General Admission is $20. Advance tickets are available at tickets.riphil.org or 401.248.7000 (M-F 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m., closed Veterans Day, Nov. 11). On day of rehearsal only, tickets are also available at The VETS Box Office (Friday, 3:30 p.m.–showtime).