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Youth and Optimism Shine Through in Sibelius' Fifth by RPO

April 03, 2008

Guest violinist and conductor make their Rochester debuts

Rochester, NY – Youth tackles some of the biggest names in the orchestral repertoire as violinist Jennifer Koh and guest conductor Alexander Mickelthwate make their Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra debuts with a fresh perspective on compositions by Mozart, Stravinsky and Sibelius in Sibelius’ Fifth on Thursday, April 24 and Saturday, April 26 at 8 p.m. at the Eastman Theatre.  Mr. Mickelthwate will host the pre-concert chat at 7 p.m. with J. Andrew Cassano, RPO director of artistic operations.

Although composed by Mozart when he was only 17 years old, Symphony No. 25 (“Little G Minor”) has a weight and passion not previously found in his earlier works.  Film buffs will recognize the stormy and syncopated first movement as the accompaniment to the opening title sequence in the film Amadeus. A more relaxed and charming second movement moves into the Finale with a restless, searching sensibility, foreshadowing many of Mozart’s later works.

Guest violinist Jennifer Koh’s fiery brilliance supplies the perfect pairing to Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto. Composed in 1931, its highly intricate and rhythmic outer movements bookend the two more lyrical Arias, all written in a lean, neo-classical style.  Widely considered to be Stravinsky’s most perfect orchestral work, it continued with great success as the music for George Balanchine choreography as “Balustrade” by the New York City Ballet.

Sibelius’ Fifth Symphony that audiences will hear is the definitive version, the final result of years of alterations, revisions, and a wait through political turmoil by this well-known Finnish composer.  In 1914, Sibelius began composing the work for his gala fiftieth birthday celebration.  Although it was premiered to favorable listener response, Sibelius himself was less than pleased.  The following year, he produced a “more earthy, more vibrant” version.  Still not completely satisfied, his additional revisions had to wait until after a period of political turmoil brought about by the revolution in neighboring Russia, and Finland’s declaration of independence.  The definitive version was produced in 1919, and has become one of the composer’s most popular symphonies.  Steeped in Nordic legends, the piece’s epic quality, sweep and grandeur celebrate the heroic, optimistic power of life.  A grand and noble theme (described by some as the Thunder god Thor swinging his hammer!) provides a magnificent close.

Jennifer Koh is recognized in the U.S. and abroad for her ability to fuse intensity of temperament with a classical poise and elegance. Since she came to international attention in 1994 as top prizewinner of the Tchaikovsky Competition, Ms. Koh has gone on to perform as guest soloist with many of the world’s leading orchestras, including those of Chicago, New York, Cleveland and St. Louis, as well as the National Symphony, Moscow Radio Symphony, and the Helsinki and Czech Philharmonics. She is an active chamber musician and recitalist, performing in New York, Philadelphia and elsewhere with such distinguished artists as Jaime Laredo and Leon Fleisher.

[Ms. Koh will be leading a master class at the Hochstein School of Music and Dance on Friday, April 25 from 3:30-5:30 p.m. with intermediate to advanced students ages 11-15 from Hochstein’s Merit Scholarship winners and/or Honors Program participants.]

One of the most exciting and emerging talents on the musical stage today, Alexander Mickelthwate is currently Music Director of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.  Since graduating from the famed Peabody Institute of Music on a merit scholarship, the German-born Mickelthwate has been attracting tremendous attention in the music community.  His charismatic presence on the podium and command of a wide range of musical styles has led to guest appearances with orchestras throughout the United States and abroad, including the Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, Honolulu, Houston, Nashville and Toronto symphonies, as well as the Hamburg Symphony, Orchestra Philharmonique de Monte Carlo and the Stuttgart Radio Symphony.  In 2007, he completed his three-year tenure as Associate Conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

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.

The Philharmonics Series is sponsored by The Eastman Kodak Company and Bausch & Lomb.  This concert is supported by The Mozart Performance Fund.  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. 

Now in its 85th season, 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. 

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