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Scheherazade's Tale of Arabian Nights Weaves a Musical, Magical Spell

February 07, 2008

RPO Concert Rounded out by Pianist Joseph Kalichstein in Mozart Piano Concerto

Rochester, NY – Inspired by the mystical 1001 Arabian Nights –  a legendary group of tales through which a storytelling thread weaves its magic – composer Rimsky-Korsakov wrote the exotic and sweeping music of Scheherazade, performed by the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra at 8 p.m. on Thursday, February 28 and Saturday, February March 1 under Music Director Christopher Seaman at Eastman Theatre.  Brahms’ merry and ironic Academic Festival Overture opens the concert with Joseph Kalichstein performing Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 22 to complete the first half.  Christopher Seaman hosts the pre-concert chat at 7 p.m.

Seaman refers to Scheherazade as “a true voyage of fantasy and imagination.” Although the exact origin of the 1001 Arabian Nights is unclear, many early historians maintain that the stories were derived from a Persian book of folk tales. The Sultan Shakriar – swearing to put to death each of his wives after the first night of marriage – is charmed by an amazing series of stories told each night by his wife, Scheherazade, in an attempt to stall her demise. The music starts with a ship in full sail, brilliantly captured by the composer, a former Navy officer.  The voice of the storyteller, Scheherazade, is portrayed betwitchingly by the solo violin (RPO Concertmaster Juliana Athayde). Together with the colorful forces of the orchestra, they weave together the magical and passionate stories.

Although many think of Brahms as a more somber, serious composer, he showed his lighter side and his ironic sense of humor in the Academic Festival Orchestra (1881), written as a thank-you for a degree granted him by the University of Breslau. Melodies from a number of comic student songs are featured, which impressed the students, but less so the faculty, ending with the famous Gaudeamus Igitur
Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 22 was completed in 1785 with the composer as pianist.  The expansive and glorious three-movement work was well-received, especially the second, slow movement, a theme and variations set in a minor key and featuring muted strings.  To the composer’s surprise, it made such a deep impression at the premiere that the audience demanded an encore.  

Pianist Joseph Kalichstein was last heard with the RPO in 2005. Acclaimed for the heartfelt intensity and technical mastery of his playing, Kalichstein has won equal praise as an orchestral soloist, recitalist and chamber musician with his Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Piano Trio.  He is the first Chamber Music Advisor to the Kennedy Center and recently appeared as a soloist with the National Symphony Orchestra at its season-opener commemorating Music Director Leonard Slatkin’s 60th birthday.  Born in Tel Aviv, Kalichstein came to the United States in 1962, studying at the Juilliard School and subsequently winning the prestigious Leventritt Award in 1969. 

Tickets for these performances are $20-$55, available online 24/7 at www.rpo.org, by phone (454-2100); in person from the RPO Box Office, Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (non-concert Saturdays, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.); and seven days a week at area Wegmans. A convenience fee may apply. Students and senior citizens are entitled to a 20% discount on advance single ticket purchases as well as half-price rush tickets beginning at 10 a.m. on the concert day.

This concert is supported by The Mozart Performance Fund.  The Philharmonics Series is sponsored by The Eastman Kodak Company and Bausch & Lomb.  Christopher Seaman’s pre-concert chat is made possible by Drs. Robin and Michael Weintraub in memory of their parents.  The RPO gratefully acknowledges PAETEC Communications Inc. for the PAETEC Philharmonic Partners program, which offers $5 Philharmonics Series tickets to local college students with valid ID. 

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:  Interviews and photos of Mr. Kalichstein are available on request.


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