I am very much looking forward to seeing you all soon and leading a special musical evening for you this Saturday in Gemma New Conducts. This program of Murphy, Prokofiev and Shostakovich will take us on a sonic roller coaster: vigorous madness alongside reflective solitude, nobility versus banality, beauty beside the grotesque.
We start the evening with an earth-shattering work by Kelly-Marie Murphy, a Canadian making waves with her powerful compositional voice. Originally written for Maestro Bramwell Tovey’s first concert as Music Director of the Vancouver Symphony, this piece is all about the challenges and rewards of starting a new partnership. While the loud rhythmic sections are impressive, the intimate quiet sections, featuring beautiful solos for the harp, oboe and flute, are equally touching. Murphy’s work opens a world of tension and release we will continue to discover in the Prokofiev and Shostakovich.
It is a privilege to welcome Canada’s star piano soloist Katherine Chi to the stage for Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto. While the virtuosity of the piano line certainly dazzles, there is also an amazing array of colours and characters to be delighted by in the orchestral writing. I’m constantly fascinated by these features, and plan to explain them in detail at our pre-concert chat. Both a composer and a pianist, Prokofiev often performed his own piano concertos, Number Three becoming the most popular out of the five. Prokofiev’s personality, piano playing and compositional style was summed up well by close friend Mstislav Rostropovich who said, “Listening to his music I am always reminded of his manner of speaking – witty, candid, at times brusque, but often gentle.”
We complete the evening with a masterful symphony, written by Dmitri Shostakovich when he was only 18 years old for his graduation assignment. Garnering praise worldwide, with this single piece Shostakovich was lifted into the limelight that subsequently gave him a life of profound opportunities as well as terrifying restrictions imposed by the Soviet rule. While this symphony starts out with fantastic wit and humour, the winds change at the third movement with the entrance of a haunting solo oboe line. This sorrowful and pained melody leads us into a darker mood that ferments throughout the remainder of the symphony.
The music of Shostakovich and Prokofiev was regularly performed in New Zealand when I was growing up, the potent, restless and quirky nature of this music being quite relatable with young teenagers. Whether or not this music is familiar with your household, I hope you will join us on February 6, to explore and enjoy this great repertoire through our Inside the Music: Pre-Concert Talk and live performance.