Music for lovers lost and found. A romantic concert piece featuring the rare appearance of four French horns. An exuberant fantasy on Spain.
Music in the Mountains will present a lush, emotional and fulsome program of Romantic-era music Sunday at the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College. Under the baton of guest conductor JoAnn Falletta, the program oddly bears the title “Triumphant Flight,” when more appropriately it could be “An Evening of Romantic Fantasies.”
The concert will open with a work that will be new to most music lovers. “Pohádka,” the Czech word for “fairy tale,” by Josef Suk, is a fantasy in four movements. Falletta is a champion of the Czech composer’s music. He was Dvorák’s favorite student at the Prague Conservatoire and became his son-in-law. Famous in the Czech Republic, he is well regarded by Europeans but little known in America.
Falletta would like to change that. She and her home orchestra, the Buffalo Philharmonic, have recorded Suk’s music on the Naxos label. Her discography lists more than 115 titles. Ten nominations have resulted in two Grammy awards. She’s been with the BPO since 1999 and has since guest-conducted all over the world. Her sojourn in Durango barely squeezes in between two other American festivals in Tennessee and Michigan.
“I am so grateful that Maestro Figueroa was willing to have the Suk work on the program,” Falletta said. She added that the Czech composer’s fantasy is “one of my favorites.
“Deeply romantic, this piece is based on a Bohemian fairy tale involving a good king, an evil stepmother and the triumph of true love. I hope the audience will enjoy discovering this beautiful music.”
“Pohádka” is a tone poem not unlike Tchaikovsky’s “Romeo and Juliet” or Rimsky- Korsakov’s “Scheherazade.” All three works draw from literary sources, tell a tale and feature extensive solo violin passages. In fact, “Pohádka” can be seen as the Czech “Romeo and Juliet.”
Originally, Suk composed incidental music for a play written by his friend Julius Zeyer. It’s about Raduz and Mahulena, legendary young lovers from rival kingdoms. Later, Suk reconfigured the music into a stand-alone, orchestral tone poem. If you read the program notes, the shape of the work will make sense as it opens with the love story and includes a love theme. Concertmaster Emmanuelle Boisvert will reprise the theme in the final section: Victory of Love.
“I have worked with Emmanuelle before,” Falletta said, “and she is a superstar!”
The middle sections may seem disconnected, but they are integral to the story. “The Game of Swans and Peacocks” is a lighthearted folk-dance medley followed by dark and lustrous funeral music before the triumphant ending.
The centerpiece of the concert is another Romantic-era work that’s rarely performed: Robert Schumann’s Konzertstück, (concert piece) in F for Four Horns and Orchestra. It may be a coincidence that Suk’s large orchestra for “Pohádka” also calls for four horns, but Falletta said the coincidence didn’t propel the programming.
“The festival already decided to put the Schumann on the program, and I was delighted,” she said. “Not only is this extraordinary work rarely performed, it is a tour de force for the excellent horn section. A special treat for me is that one of the soloists, Sheryl Hadeka, is our great second hornist in the Buffalo Philharmonic.”
Joining Hadeka will be Jay Ferree, Nathan Ukens and Matthew Wilson.
The finale of Sunday’s concert will be Rimsky-Korsakov’s brilliant showpiece “Capriccio Espanol,” which again features extensive solo violin work.
“Perfect for Miss Boisvert,” Falletta said. “All three pieces are wonderful, virtuosic, dramatic and filled with color. Many people know the Rimsky-Korsakov, but it is a special pleasure to play pieces that they may be hearing for the first time – and hopefully love as much as I do.”
Judith Reynolds is an arts journalist and member of the American Theatre Critics Association.