Photo courtesy of The Redwood Symphony
Eric Kujawsky. left, and composer Mason Bates at a rehearsal for the program.
The Redwood Symphony boldly goes where other community orchestras, and even some professional ones, have not yet trod.
On Saturday evening, April 16, at Cañada College in Redwood City, Music Director Eric Kujawsky leads the orchestra in two works of not 20th but 21st century music. Sixteen years into this century, it’s about time for more concerts like this.
Renowned local composer Henry Mollicone has provided a world premiere: after a long career in opera and many kinds of music, he found himself writing his first-ever concerto — “a very enjoyable experience,” he says — and offered it to Redwood to perform. The solo is for violin, and Alexander Eisenberg will be playing the part.
“It’s a wonderful, accessible work,” Kujawsky said, “a little reminiscent of 19th century display pieces, very showy for the soloist, and very tender as well.”
There’s two fast movements, a tarantella and a toccata, and two slow tender ones, so there will be plenty of opportunity for both molds. Mollicone will discuss the concerto in a pre-concert talk.
That’s not all. Mason Bates, 39, is a composer, DJ and electronics enthusiast who’s well-known locally for his work with the San Francisco Symphony and the Cabrillo Festival. His work will be introduced to Redwood audience in the form of his big four-movement techno-symphony “Alternative Energy.” Composed just five years ago, it’s an exciting, energetic but cool-toned piece full of well-integrated electronic sounds. These will be played by a laptop soloist connected with a multi-speaker sound system. “Alternative Energy” has a science-fictional program, taking the listener through human civilization from the 19th century into an imagined far future rain forest on a warmer planet.
Besides Mollicone’s concerto, Eisenberg will be playing a showpiece fantasia on themes from Bizet’s opera “Carmen,” compiled by mid-20th century film composer Franz Waxman. The concert will begin with assistant conductor Kristin Link leading the “Roman Carnival Overture” by the composer who’s the founding father of now two centuries of colorful orchestration, Hector Berlioz.
Redwood Symphony is going on to perform a hearty program of Beethoven and Shostakovich May 28, and to conclude its season July 30 with Gustav Mahler’s massive choral “Symphony of a Thousand.” Next season will begin with a semi-staged version of the Weill-Brecht satirical Weimar-era opera “Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny” Sept. 24. Details are at redwoodsymphony.org.
Redwood’s concert is not the only interesting one coming up locally soon. Sunday evening, April 17, the Harlem String Quartet will be heard at Kohl Mansion in Burlingame, playing a mixed classical-jazz program running from Beethoven and Mendelssohn to Dizzy Gillespie and “The Girl from Ipanema.” Details at musicatkohl.org.
On April 23 in San Mateo and April 24 in Menlo Park, the Ragazzi Boys Chorus, along with its alumni chorale Ragazzi Continuo, will be singing the warmest and gentlest requiem ever composed, the one by French composer Gabriel Fauré, plus a selection of songs celebrating nature. Details at ragazzi.org.
The San Francisco Chamber Orchestra is presenting a concert juxtaposing Beethoven’s dancelike Seventh Symphony and Stravinsky’s pungent Suite No. 1 with a newly commissioned work by the always-imaginative East Bay “avant cabaret” artist Amy X Neuburg. SFCO concerts are free of charge and first come, first served. This concert will be played on Saturday, April 30, at the First United Methodist Church in Palo Alto, as well as in San Francisco on Friday and in Oakland on Sunday. Details at thesfco.org.
To look a little further ahead, tickets will go on sale next week for the annual Music@Menlo festival in Atherton. This year’s festival will run from July 15 to Aug. 6, and the theme is “Russian Reflections.” Chamber music by Russian composers from Glinka, through Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff, to Shostakovich will be mixed on programs with Western pieces by Mozart, Brahms, Fauré, and others, in a three-week demonstration of how Russian music fits into the greater context of musical achievement. Details at musicatmenlo.org.