On Friday, July 31, the National Repertory Orchestra and music director Carl Topilow will present the final concert of the orchestra’s 56th summer season at the Riverwalk Center in Breckenridge. The program will feature Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3, as well as Rossini’s famous “William Tell Overture” and Kodaly’s “Hary Janos Suite.”
“In his third piano concerto, Rachmaninoff runs the gamut of human experience,” said pianist Lawrence Quinnett, who will perform the exceptionally difficult solo role. “Grief and ecstasy, peace and rage, joy, depression, agony, triumph — it’s all there.”
Doing most of his work in the early 20th century, Rachmaninoff is one of the latest composers who can be seen as a true master of the Romantic style. He was a renowned piano virtuoso himself and is particularly admired for his piano music. The most important of these works are his concertos for solo piano and orchestra, which combine his virtuosic piano writing with his formidable orchestration skills.
For one of the most technically demanding pieces in the piano repertoire, the 1909 Third Piano Concerto has an understated beginning. The first movement opens with the piano introducing a simple melodic theme, reminiscent of a Russian monastic chant. As this theme is adopted by the orchestral accompaniment, the solo piano takes off at a dazzling speed, exploring the melody’s intricacies and discovering new, contrasting themes.
The concerto’s most impressive feature is perhaps not its virtuosity, but rather Rachmaninoff’s ability to strike a perfect balance between technical mastery and expressive, emotional writing. The second movement begins with a delicate falling melody for strings and woodwinds. The piano takes up this melody with a soft touch, and the impassioned passages that it progresses to feel like natural steps in the music’s emotional journey. This process is reversed in the finale, which begins with a lively rhythm for the soloist and gradually increases in expressive intensity as it builds toward the concerto’s dramatic conclusion.
“This is Rachmaninoff’s grandest concerto, with melodic passages and full utilization of the orchestra,” said Doug Adams, CEO of the NRO.
Quinnett has given performances and master classes across the United States. He holds a doctorate in music from Florida State University. The concert continues with Gioachino Rossini’s “William Tell Overture,” one of the most recognizable pieces of music in the classical repertoire. Written as an introduction to Rossini’s 1829 “William Tell” opera, the overture has gone on to become far more popular than the opera itself. Its galloping finale, “March of the Swiss Soldiers,” has become famous for its use as the theme music for “The Lone Ranger.” This movement, however, is only a part of Rossini’s larger depiction of the opera’s setting in the Swiss Alps. The overture also contains an evocation of dawn in the countryside, a thunderstorm and a calm pastoral movement.
Zoltan Kodaly was a contemporary of Rachmaninoff, but his music is far removed from the Russian composer’s Romantic style. Along with his countryman Bela Bartok, the Hungarian composer was influential in adding the sounds of his nation’s folk music to the established classical tradition.
The “Hary Janos Suite” creates an authentic Hungarian sound by featuring a prominent role for the cimbalom, one of the country’s traditional instruments. The music is taken from Kodaly’s 1926 opera, which follows the embellished adventures of a peasant named Hary Janos. The folk-inspired music gives caricatured hints of Austria and France as Hary’s exploits take him throughout Europe.
Guest artist Laurence Kaptain will join the NRO’s musicians to perform the part for cimbalom. Kaptain is a symphonic cimbalom artist who studied the instrument in Hungary and has been performing with major orchestras for the past 25 years.
Barbara and David Weaver, St. Anthony Medical Center and Summit County Medical Center Health Foundation are the NRO’s sponsors for the season finale. For tickets and more information, call (970) 547-3100, or visit www.nromusic.com.
Benjamin Paul is the marketing and public relations intern for the National Repertory Orchestra.