The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra visits the Western Manitoba Centennial Auditorium this Sunday for the fourth and final concert in its 2012-13 WSO in Brandon season.
Berlioz’s "Symphonie fantastique," conducted by WSO music director Alexander Mickelthwate, showcases WSO associate concertmaster, Karl Stobbe, as soloist in Prokofiev’s "Violin Concerto No.1."
The concert begins with "Le Tombeau de Couperin" by Maurice Ravel.
In 1917, Ravel’s emotional state was turbulent. Anguished by the First World War and shocked by the final illness and death of his mother, Ravel turned to what had always been an antidote for him during difficult times, the emotional and intellectual comfort of French culture and tradition.
The original piano setting of this work combined a dedication of each movement to one of Ravel’s friends that had fallen on the battlefield, with a look-back to the musical style of the French Baroque era. Composer François Couperin (1668-1733) had produced music in memory of friends, giving it the name "tombeau" (tombstone). This too became Ravel’s path.
Highly engaging in its charm, one would not suspect that "Le Tombeau de Couperin" is a work springing from any kind of personal turmoil, especially in the orchestral version.
As a brash young composer, Serge Prokofiev vowed that expecting the unexpected would be central to his music.
Juggling simultaneous projects in different styles — whether lyrical, modern, neo-classical or other — the kind of composer he was perceived as proved elusive, no more so than in his "Violin Concerto No. 1" whose anticipation of something spiky and modern at the premiere surprised everyone, turning out to be one of the composer’s most lyrical offerings.
The performance concludes with "Symphonie fantastique," composed by Hector Berlioz.
Arch Romantic that he was, Berlioz was so taken with English actress Harriet Smithson when he saw her as Juliet and Ophelia in 1827, he wrote her frantic letters of love over the next three years despite never meeting her. The romance was entirely one-sided — she, fearing a potential stalker in Berlioz and he, wandering the countryside in despair of such unrequited love.
With Romantic nerve endings on fire, in 1830 Berlioz planned a new symphony with the subtitle "Episode from the Life of an Artist." In it the artist views his love through an opium-enhanced state, first in his dreams, then a ball, the countryside, at his execution and finally joining a witches’ Sabbath.
Running through it all would be an idée fixe — a singular musical theme signifying Harriet that would morph from the innocent to the grotesque in parody at the end. Berlioz did marry Harriet in 1833, but their happiness quickly dissolved and they were estranged within a decade.
"Symphonie fantastique" is a tour de force in its vivid program content, bend-without-break melodies, dazzling orchestration and overall trailblazing from materials essentially derived from classical models. Its popularity among the most beloved symphonies in the literature remains undiminished.
Sunday’s concert begins at 3 p.m. at the Western Manitoba Centennial Auditorium. The pre-concert chat in the lobby begins at 2:15 p.m.
Single tickets are available at the Western Manitoba Centennial Auditorium at (204) 728-9510 or wmca.ca.