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France and Scotland Spotlighted in RPO Concerts with Guest Pianist and Conductor

October 05, 2007

Guest Pianist Jon Kimura Parker Takes the Stage with Conductor Hugh Wolff

Rochester, NY – France vs. Scotland: it sounds like soccer, but it’s actually the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra’s concerts with works by French composers Henri Dutilleux and Maurice Ravel squaring off against Felix’s Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 3 (“Scottish”).  On Thursday, October 25 and Saturday, October 27 at 8 p.m. in the Eastman Theatre, guest conductor Hugh Wolff (born in Paris to American parents) leads the RPO with Canadian guest pianist Jon Kimura Parker who brings his extraordinary technical and musical skills to bear in Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G Major.  Hugh Wolff and RPO Director of Artistic Operations J. Andrew Cassano host the pre-concert chat at 7:00 p.m.

The concert opens with one of Henri Dutilleux’s best-known and most-acclaimed compositions, Métaboles (1964), exploring the idea of metamorphosis.  “In each section,” Duttileux wrote, “the initial figure undergoes a series of transformations.  At a certain stage in its evolution, the deformation is so marked that it gives rise to a new figure, and this appears in transparency beneath the symphonic web.”  Dutilleux’s personal style shows his interest in color, large musical forms and an emotional seriousness not often found in French music.

Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G Major reflects the composer’s burgeoning interest in jazz, which he first heard during a concert tour of North America in 1928.  As if to get the audience’s attention, the piece begins immediately with the crack of a whip, ultimately balancing the playful and the dreamy.  The second movement showcases Ravel at his most impressionistic.  Marguerite Long, arguably the most important French woman pianist of the twentieth century, called its principal theme “one of the most touching melodies which has come from the human heart.”  The finale is a headlong chase led by the soloist, accompanied by mischievous tunes, pizzicato strings and jingling percussion.

Felix Mendelssohn’s trip to Scotland in 1829 – specifically his visit to the ruined chapel of Holyrood Castle near Edinburgh – inspired him to commemorate that country though a new symphony.  The plaintive opening, based on the Holyrood theme, leads to a first movement with a melody not unlike the song Westering Home. The slow movement expresses the deep natural beauty of Scotland, and the finale, according to Music Director Seaman, who resides in Scotland when not living in Rochester, “reminds us of the war-like history of Scotland, but ends with a victory celebration where drinking was not restricted to water!”

Conductor Hugh Wolff began his professional career as Associate Conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra in 1979 followed by a Music Director post with the New Jersey Symphony.  In 1988, he was named Principal Conductor of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and in 1992 became its Music Director, a post he held until 2000.  Of this partnership, the New York Times wrote: “The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra has developed an effortlessly polished sound…Mr. Wolff shapes his interpretations with impeccable taste.”  He has been a guest conductor with the orchestras of Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Toronto, as well as in Australia and Japan.  In Europe, Mr. Wolff was Principal Conductor of the Frankfurt Radio Symphony, and also has conducted the Leipzig Gewandhaus, NDR Hamburg, Finnish Radio Symphony, Dresden Philharmonic, Danish National Radio Symphony, the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie and l’Orchestre National de Lyon.  He has recorded on the Sony Classical, Teldec, Decca and Argo labels.

Internationally acclaimed Canadian concert pianist Jon Kimura Parker’s extraordinary career has taken him from Carnegie Hall and the Sydney Opera House to Baffin Island and Zimbabwe. A true Canadian ambassador of music, Mr. Parker has given two command performances for Queen Elizabeth II, special performances for the United States Supreme Court, and has performed for the Prime Ministers of Canada and Japan. This season, he performs with the orchestras of Atlanta, Boston, Calgary, Cincinnati, Denver, Ottawa, Salt Lake City, San Diego, Tokyo, Toronto and Warsaw.  Next summer, he returns to the Hollywood Bowl with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.  As a member of the outreach project “PianoPlus,” Mr. Parker toured remote areas including the Canadian Arctic, performing music ranging from Beethoven to Alanis Morissette on everything from upright pianos to electronic keyboards.  He has jammed with Doc Severinsen in Calgary and Bobby McFerrin in Philadelphia and Baltimore, and regularly appears at numerous summer festivals.

An active media personality, Mr. Parker has hosted the classical music television series Whole Notes, on Bravo! Canada, as well as CBC Radio Two’s series Up And Coming, showcasing promising young Canadian musicians. He had a cameo appearance on the Disney Channel’s Under the Umbrella Tree. Parker was seen on CNN performing in war-torn Sarajevo and has been documented frequently on CBC and PBS.  Parker is professor of piano at the Shepherd School of Music, and is an Officer of The Order of Canada, his country’s highest civilian honor.

Tickets for these performances are $20-$55, available online 24/7 at www.rpo.org, by phone (454-2100) and in person from the RPO Box Office, Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (non-concert Saturdays, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.). 

The Philharmonics Series is sponsored by The Eastman Kodak Company and Bausch & Lomb; this concert is sponsored by Zimmer Sales & Service Corp.  The RPO gratefully acknowledges PAETEC Communications Inc. for the PAETEC Philharmonic Partners program, which offers discounted Philharmonics Series tickets to local college students. 

Celebrating its 85th season in 2007-08, the RPO inspires and enriches the community through the art of music.  The Orchestra is passionately dedicated to outstanding musical performance at the highest artistic levels, and has a unique tradition of musical versatility, commitment to music education in the broadest sense and a deep and enduring engagement with the community.  The RPO has been honored with the New York State Governor’s Arts Award and two recent ASCAP awards for adventurous programming.  RPO performances are made possible in part with grants from the National Endowment for the Arts; the New York State Council on the Arts, a State Agency; the State of New York; Monroe County and the City of Rochester. 

Note: Digital photos of Mr. Wolff and Mr. Parker are available on request, as are interviews.

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