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RPO Guest Conductor and Soloist Warm Up Cold Climate Composers

Rochester, NY – The musical manifestations of political struggle and a bold, life-enhancing concerto open the 2009 winter season of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra’s Philharmonics Series on Thursday, January 22 and Saturday, January 24 at 8:00 pm under Guest Conductor Jahja Ling with RPO Principal Flute Rebecca Gilbert (The Charlotte Whitney Allen Chair).  An overture by Modest Mussorgsky and a 20th century symphonic masterpiece by another great Russian, Dimitri Shostakovich, bookend the 1926 Flute Concerto by Danish composer Carl Nielsen.  The pre-concert chat at 7:00 pm will be hosted by RPO trumpeter Herb Smith.

Jahja (pronounced Yock-yah) Ling opens the concert with Mussorgsky’s atmospheric Overture to Khovanshchina, much of which depicts dawn.  In fact, this “music drama of the people” symbolizes the new “dawn” heralded by the reign of Peter the Great in whose time the story of Khovanshchina (The Khovansky Plot) takes place.  The piece was left incomplete at the time of the composer’s death, and was edited, completed, and orchestrated by his friend and fellow composer, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.  The libretto, based on Russian history of the late 17th century, tells of the struggle waged by various political and religious factions over the country’s destiny.

In 1926, Carl Nielsen composed his two-movement Flute Concerto which received its premiere at an all-Nielsen concert in Paris.  In light of the composer’s belief that the flute prefers more “pastoral moods,” the orchestral accompaniment is played by a chamber-sized orchestra.  The first movement opens with a dramatic gesture from the orchestra, contrasting with the flute’s more gentle entrance.  A rapid alternation of light and dark elements is a primary characteristic of the concerto.  A solo cadenza is unexpectedly backed first by timpani, then clarinet, and eventually full orchestra.  Although the second movement begins gently, the solo trombone bolsters the mood and the piece ends in bright spirits.

Since joining the RPO as Principal Flute in 1996, Rebecca Gilbert has illuminated the RPO’s classical and pops performances with her expressive and versatile playing.  Rebecca also has performed as Acting Principal Flute of the St. Louis Symphony and Guest Assistant Principal Flute with the Boston Symphony at Tanglewood.  In addition to her solo appearances with the RPO, she also has performed with the St. Louis Symphony and the Charleston (SC) Symphony Orchestra.  She has appeared as Visiting Artist-in-Residence at the Jeanne Baxtresser International Flute Masterclass at The Juilliard School, and has given masterclasses in orchestra flute playing throughout the United States.  She maintains an active teaching schedule with her private flute studio and as coach/mentor with the RPYO.

Shostakovich’s powerful Fifth Symphony – premiered in 1937 and still considered one of the great 20th century masterpieces – will be the featured second half.  The composer spent most of his life under the oppressive regime of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, coming under fire from Soviet officials for his compositional style.  The theme of the symphony, in the composer’s own words, is “the making of a man.”  His Fifth Symphony opens both heroically and tragically at the same time, a theme carried through much of the symphony. The biting wit of the second movement leads into the triumphant Finale, which is also tinged in sarcasm.

Jahja Ling’s distinguished career has earned him an exceptional reputation for musical integrity, intensity and expressivity.  He has conducted all the major orchestras in the U.S., Europe, and Asia.  In his fifth season as music director of the San Diego Symphony, he also celebrates the 25th anniversary of his association with The Cleveland Orchestra, where he started as associate conductor in 1984.  Mr. Ling has a broad range of works in his discography, including the New York Philharmonic Orchestra’s American Celebrations collection.  Born in Jakarta, Indonesia, of Chinese descent, he received degrees from The Juilliard School and the Yale University School of Music.

Tickets for these performances are $20-$56, available online 24/7 at, by phone (454-2100) and in person from the RPO Box Office, Monday-Saturday, 10:00 am-5:00 pm (non-concert Saturdays, 10:00 am-3:00 pm). 

The Philharmonics Series is sponsored by The Eastman Kodak Company and Bausch & Lomb.  The RPO gratefully acknowledges PAETEC Communications Inc. for the PAETEC Philharmonic Partners program, which offers discounted $9 Philharmonics Series tickets to local students. 

Celebrating its 86th season in 2007-08, 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 recent ASCAP awards for adventurous programming.  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 and the City of Rochester.