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A Favorite Rochester Conductor, Jerzy Semkow Raises the Baton with the RPO

October 23, 2006

Semkow celebrates 20 years since first conducting the Orchestra

Rochester, NY – In a program that shows off the talents of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, conductor Jerzy Semkow  — celebrating 20 years since first conducting the RPO — will lead the orchestra in two major pieces of symphonic repertoire: Haydn’s Symphony No. 104 “London” (the prolific composer’s final symphony), and Tchaikovsky’s turbulent Symphony No. 4  on Thursday, November 9 and Saturday, November 11 at 8 p.m. in the Eastman Theatre.  RPO trumpeter Herb Smith will host the Pre-Concert Chat at 7 p.m. 

Written in 1795, Haydn’s Symphony No. 104 was one of a series to be played in London.  RPO Music Director Christopher Seaman explains that “Haydn was ‘adopted’ by the English, who no doubt responded to the jovial and witty side of his music as well as its superb craftsmanship and originality.”  Although opening slowly and with a serious sounding introduction, the rest of the piece has a generally sunny outlook. The Grand Finale closes with a folk-like tune, recently identified as “Oj Jelena,” a ballad sung by the Croatians living in Eisenstadt when Haydn made his home there. 

Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony was dedicated to his patron and “best friend,” Nadezhda von Meck, on the condition that they would never meet. However, nearly 300 intimate letters between the two over a two-year span illuminate their relationship and the composer’s personal turmoil. The often-troubled and sensitive Tchaikovsky suggested that the seed of this whole symphony is “Fate” represented in the opening brass fanfare, and that the force of Fate “is invincible, and you will never overpower it.” The second movement recalls memory and nostalgia, followed by a playful movement played completely pizzicato expressing an intoxicated, dream-like state. Regarding the brilliant Finale, Tchaikovsky writes, “If you can’t find reasons for joy within yourself, look at others.  Rejoice in the rejoicing of others.  Yes, it is possible to live.”  

The Grammy-nominated Jerzy Semkow has gained an international reputation through his conducting appearances around the world.  His posts have included tenures as Music Director of the St. Louis Symphony, Principal Conductor of the Royal Danish Opera and the Royal Danish Orchestra in Copenhagen, Principal Conductor of the Orchestra of Radio-Televisione Italiana in Rome, and Artistic Director of the National Opera in Warsaw. From 1985-1989, he was Music Advisor and Principal Conductor of the RPO.  Recent highlights include conducting Haydn’s Creation at the Vatican in the presence of Pope John-Paul II, telecast throughout Europe.  In addition to many international awards for his recordings, Semkow himself has been awarded with the French Order of Arts and Letters, Doctor honoris causa at the Academy Frederic Chopin in Warsaw, and in 2005, was decorated with the Order GLORIA ARTIS.

Tickets for these performances are $20-$54, available online 24/7 at www.rpo.org, by phone (454-2100) and in person from the RPO Box Office, as well as at all Wegmans Video Departments.  RPO Box Office Hours are Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (non-concert Saturdays, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.). The Wegmans Video Department is open seven days a week, 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m. A convenience fee may apply.

The Philharmonics Series is sponsored by Eastman Kodak Company and Bausch & Lomb. Maestro Semkow’s appearance is made possible by Mrs. Dawn and Dr. Jacques Lipson.  The RPO gratefully acknowledges PAETEC Communications Inc. for the PAETEC Philharmonic Partners program, which offers discounted Philharmonics Series tickets to local college students. 

Now in its 84th 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 ASCAP awards for adventurous programming in recent years.

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; the City of Rochester; and American Airlines, the official airline of the RPO.


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