‘Fandangos’ is full of fireworks
I am so glad to be back in Honolulu -- and thrilled to have such an extraordinary concert to share with the superb musicians of the Honolulu Symphony and with our audiences. Can new music be fun? It certainly can -- as our opening piece proves with a resounding "ole!"
In 2000, Roberto Sierra, a fellow islander from Puerto Rico, wrote "Fandangos," a brilliant mixture of orchestral fireworks and flamenco dance. Borrowing a popular tune from the 16th century, Roberto treats us to virtuosic variations of a melody that you won't be able to stop humming.
It has been played all over -- but never in Hawaii, so you can discover a young American composer who believes that contemporary music should be singable, memorable, filled with color and fantasy, and just plain fun. See if you agree with a comment from one of our musicians: "'Fandangos' is what 'Bolero' would have sounded like if Ravel had spent his summer vacation in Barcelona!"
Jennifer Koh, our fabulous soloist, will dazzle you as well. An extraordinary virtuoso on the violin, she's a beautiful and charismatic young performer. She'll be playing Max Bruch's "Scottish Fantasy."
Just as "Fandangos" transports us to Spain, Bruch's concerto conjures up a very different place: the romantic and misty landscape of Scotland. Written in 1880, the work is chock full of Scottish folk songs and showcases Jennifer's brilliant violin pyrotechnics.
I will be interviewing Jennifer prior to her performance, a la Oprah Winfrey, to get a feel for why she chose this piece and her feelings about the importance of classical music in today's world.
The towering masterpiece of our program is Johannes Brahms' magnificent first symphony. You might be surprised to learn that Brahms was actually terrified about writing a symphony. He felt that the ghost of his great predecessor, Ludwig van Beethoven, was always looking over his shoulder, and he didn't dare follow in his footsteps until he was over 40.
But when he finally marshaled his courage to write his symphony, it was one of the greatest orchestral works in the entire repertoire. Filled with nobility, grandeur, tenderness and incredible power, this symphony is also Brahms' love letter to the woman he adored all his life, Clara Schumann. Although they never married because of his loyalty to the memory of her husband, Robert (his mentor), Brahms loved her passionately. You'll be overwhelmed by that passion -- and by the extraordinary talents of the symphony musicians.
I invite you to join Gideon Toeplitz, interim director of the symphony, and myself after each of the concerts for a town hall meeting. We want to hear what you have to say! Gideon and I will answer questions -- any questions -- that you might have. The Honolulu Symphony is committed to improving your concert experience, and who better to give us feedback than our loyal audiences?
JoAnn Falletta is musical director with the Buffalo Philharmonic.