Simple Symphony and Fancy Fiddling with the SPCO and Hannah Lash

Composer Hannah LashCourtesy of the artist

Hannah Lash - Moth Sketches


May 24, 2018

This week's concert has a name: Simple Symphony and Fancy Fiddling. There will be plenty of both when the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra performs live on Classical MPR at 8 p.m. Saturday.

The concert begins with a symphony in the classical style by 20th century English composer Benjamin Britten. The themes come from his childhood, kept in a sketchbook when he was between 9 and 12. By the time he began his formal studies with Frank Bridge, he realized that he had a lot to learn about compositional technique but that he still had a knack for creating good melodies.

Next on the program is a new piano concerto by one of today's leading voices, American composer Hannah Lash. She tells us that artistic partner of the SPCO, Jeremey Denk, is one of her favorite pianists, so it is certainly a thrill to write for him. Her concerto shares aspects of traditional classical style with concertos of yore, but it's in her dreamy themes and unresolved dissonances that the imagination is captivated. In Pursuit of Flying veers into emotionally charged regions, ending in an explosion of virtuosity. It will be a show-stopper for sure. (You can sample her work by clicking on Moth Sketches above. It's not on the program, but I love it.)

Next on the program is Igor Stravinsky's modern response to Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, his neo-classic — or perhaps more aptly, neo-Baroque — Dumbarton Oaks Concerto. Commissioned for a 30th anniversary, this piece is likely the best present ever given or received.

Finally, the concert gets down-home with fiddle-influenced music: Aaron Copland's "Hoe Down" from Rodeo and a work by this weekend's guest conductor, Teddy Abrams. Fiddling for Strings and Piano was written during what he says was a meaningful and nostalgic period of his life, when he spent three summers in the mountains of western North Carolina learning to play "old-time" fiddling music. It was especially powerful for a classical musician who began to connect the power of folk music as part of America's aural tradition.

Also on the program, violinist Eunice Kim will perform a work by Jeremy Kittel called Pando. More pieced together from improvisation than written down, it's a trance-like minimalist blend of traditional fiddle with a hit of banjo for good measure.

This is going to be one heck of a concert, so don't miss it!

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