Rochester, NY – The Rochester Philharmonic turns the Eastman Theatre all a-glitter on Thursday, March 15 and Saturday March 17 at 8:00 p.m. with concerts featuring renowned American conductor Gerard Schwarz conducting Symphony No. 4 by the late Rochester composer David Diamond, Saint-Saëns’ Piano Concerto No. 2, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Russian Easter Overture and Igor Stravinsky’s dazzling Suite from The Firebird. Guest pianist Stewart Goodyear, a star on the rise, will make his RPO debut performing the Saint-Saëns concerto. Mr. Schwarz will host the pre-concert chat at 7:00 p.m.
“We welcome back the leading American conductor Gerard Schwarz, a close friend of the late Rochester composer David Diamond,” says Music Director Christopher Seaman. “Mr. Schwarz is without question the leading interpreter of David Diamond’s music, so it is appropriate and exciting that our concert begins with his symphony.”
Diamond’s impressive Symphony No. 4 was commissioned by Boston’s Serge Koussevitsky and premiered by Leonard Bernstein. The piece depicts three views of life and death, the third of them optimistic and positive, and the entire piece has a wonderful and emotionally satisfying effect in purely musical terms. The piece was premiered in 1948, with the RPO performing it the same year. Born in Rochester in 1915, Diamond is celebrated for his sense of melody, which he felt helped him speak to the public. He studied at the Cleveland Institute of Music and the Eastman School, as well as with famed composition teacher Nadia Boulanger in Paris. He received numerous prizes and grants for his music which was championed by conductors such as Bernstein, Koussevitsky and Eugene Ormandy.
Saint-Saëns’ Piano Concerto No. 2 is the most popular of the composer’s five concertos resulting from his friendship with pianist of the time, Anton Rubinstein. The piece opens with piano alone, building to the colossal orchestral entry. The three movements offer an exceptionally wide range of moods, ending with a breathless Tarantella which often brings down the house.
The Russian Easter Overture by Rimsky-Korsakov is richly colored by Orthodox Church music, with themes from a collection of traditional church canticles – the first music printed in Russia. The solo trombone takes the spotlight imitating the voice of the Russian Deacon. Tolling bells and thundering brass bring the work to a triumphant conclusion.
It is appropriate that the next work on the program is Stravinsky’s ballet The Firebird, influenced by the colorful, folk-based style favored by his teacher Rimsky-Korsakov. Impresario Sergei Diaghilev offered the young Stravinsky an opportunity to compose the music for a lavishly-mounted dance production adapted from a Russian fairy tale about a magic firebird helping the hero, Prince Ivan, to rescue a group of spellbound princesses from the clutches of an evil magician. The ballet was premiered in 1910, followed by the composer’s arrangement of three suites in 1911, 1919 and 1945 from the full score. The RPO will perform the popular second arrangement.
Renowned American conductor Gerard Schwarz celebrates his 22nd year as music director of the Seattle Symphony and his second as principal conductor of the Eastern Music Festival. He has earned worldwide praise for the compelling sensitivity and extraordinary depth he brings to his vast repertoire of today’s music. Maestro Schwarz has helped to build numerous orchestras including Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival, the New York Chamber Symphony, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and the Tokyo Philharmonic. Schwarz’ nearly 100 recordings with the Seattle Symphony alone have resulted in 11 Grammy nominations, three ASCAP awards and Record of the Year.
Known for imagination, a graceful, elegant style and exquisite technique, Canadian pianist Stewart Goodyear has performed with many of North America’s major orchestras including Philadelphia, Toronto, San Francisco, New Jersey, Calgary, Vancouver, Winnipeg and Seattle, among many others. In addition to his pianistic talents, Goodyear is a composer and frequently performs his own works, including his solo piano work, Variations on “Eleanor Rigby.” Mr. Goodyear studied at the Curtis Institute of Music and received a master’s degree from The Juilliard School.
Tickets for these performances are $20-$54, available online 24/7 at www.rpo.org, by phone (454-2100) and in person from the RPO Box Office, as well as at any Wegmans. RPO Box Office hours are Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (non-concert Saturdays, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.). Wegmans is open seven days a week. A convenience fee may apply.
The Philharmonics Series is sponsored by Eastman Kodak Company and Bausch & Lomb. Mr. Schwarz’s appearance is sponsored by The Davenport-Hatch Foundation. The RPO gratefully acknowledges PAETEC Communications Inc. for the PAETEC Philharmonic Partners program, which offers discounted Philharmonics Series tickets to local college students.
Now in its 84th season, 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; the City of Rochester; and American Airlines, the official airline of the RPO.
Note: Digital photos of Mr. Schwarz, Mr. Goodyear and David Diamond are available. Interviews with Mr. Schwarz and Mr. Goodyear may be available on request.