Monday, January 25, 2010

Classical Majesty: A West Virginia Symphonic Series

I went to hear the West Virgina Symphony Orchestra at the Clay Center with my dad last weekend. Guest solo violinist Corey Cerovsek performed on his glossy Stradivarius in a performance entitled Classical Majesty, part of the Symphonic Series led by resident conductor Grant Cooper, a dapper New Zealander.

The event almost sold out (they didn't open the second balcony). Although it was an older crowd in long coats (even a few furs!) I did spot some younger faces and families in the well-heeled audience.

The evening opened with Ralph Vaughan Williams' Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis, my favorite hands down. "What?" my dad said. "You like that stuff better than Mozart?" I appreciated Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 5 (with some surprise string effects), but sometimes we just like the way a piece of music makes us feel. And I thought Williams' interpretation of British composer Tallis' liturgical music had the qualities of a killer movie soundtrack with the power to inspire imagination and spark emotions. (I just looked it up and it has served as a soundtrack in various movies. Now I don't know whether to feel perceptive or uncultured.) It was a strings-only piece, and I have a thing for violins and cellos, even in pop music. (Now that I think about it, that's probably the reason I appreciate bluegrass.) The full orchestra didn't take the stage until the final segment, Antonin Dvorak's Symphony No. 8.

The three featured composers mastered the architecture of classical music, the structure that keeps music's tendency of passionate explosions in check, to create majestic statements. (My summary of the program description -- I was curious about how it all fit together.)

The Canadian violinist Cerovsek, 37, lives in Paris. Although he's not a household name like, say, Paganini, his international performance credits, along with a few network TV appearances, took up an entire page of tiny type in the program. But what impressed me the most was that he graduated with bachelor's degrees in mathematics and music from the University of Indiana at age 15, earned masters in both at 16, and finished his PhD's at 18. Oh, and he's a concert pianist too.
Left Photo Credit: 
Right Photo Credit: (c) 2008 Claves Records

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