La Jolla, Calif. (February 22, 2011) — The La Jolla Symphony " Chorus (LJS"C) stretches the conception of the concerto on March 12-13, 2011 in Mandeville Auditorium on the UCSD campus. Conductor Steven Schick begins the program with Serge Prokofiev’s Concerto No. 2 for Violin, with the brilliant 16-year-old Hannah Cho as soloist, and concludes the program with the greatest orchestral concerto of them all – Béla Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra. In between, a complete surprise: the world premiere of Mark Applebaum’s Concerto for Florist and Orchestra, featuring ornamental horticulturalist James DelPrince as soloist.
Serge Prokofiev (b. 1891) fled Russia in 1917, eventually settling in Paris, where he wrote brilliant – often abrasive – music. As time went by, and homesickness set in, he began making many visits to his homeland and after 1933 kept an apartment in Moscow, dividing his time between that city and Paris. The Soviet government favored lyrical music with mass appeal and would not have tolerated some of the music Prokofiev had written in the West. Perhaps Prokofiev also was ready to relax his style, and as he returned to Russia his music grew more lyric and accessible (among the works he wrote after his return were Peter and the Wolf and the ballet Romeo and Juliet). In 1935 he was commissioned to write a violin concerto for French violinist Robert Soetens. Concerto No. 2 for Violin, which premiered in Madrid in December 1935, is scored for an intimate orchestra (pairs of woodwinds, horns, and trumpets, plus strings), but with this classical sound enlivened by unusual percussion instruments, including castanets and a variety of drums. Performing the solo violin part is Hannah Cho, the LJS&C 2009 Young Artists Competition winner and a junior at the Professional Children’s School in New York City.
Composer Mark Applebaum (b. 1967), associate professor of music composition and theory at Stanford University, says the idea behind Concerto for Florist and Orchestra originated in a chance encounter with floral designer James DelPrince on an airplane. As Applebaum describes it, four things happened during that ride, all in the span of about 20 seconds: “I learned that Jim was a florist; I instantaneously had the idea of a concerto for florist; I asked him if he’d ever thought about being a performance florist; and he responded ‘Yes--I’ve always dreamed about being a performance florist.’” Earlier versions of the concerto were written for an ensemble of improvising musicians with James DelPrince simultaneously sculpting magnificent and idiosyncratic floral displays. After performing in the ensemble version as percussionist, Steven Schick proposed to Applebaum that he write an entirely new piece for symphony orchestra. The Concerto for Florist and Orchestra (Thomas Nee Commission) is a three-movement work where the musicians perform a traditionally notated composition, but the soloist is free to improvise his part spontaneously. Soloist DelPrince is associate professor of floral design at Mississippi State University and author of two books on floral design.
It is surprising that Béla Bartók (b. 1881) wrote Concerto for Orchestra, a work full of high-spiritedness and joy, while terminally ill. The concerto was an instant success when it premiered in Boston in December 1944. The composer, wracked by the leukemia that would kill him 10 months later, was so frail that he had to be helped to the stage to receive the audience’s accolades. Written in five movements, the work is music of strength, humanity, beauty, even humor. In Bartók’s own words: “The general mood of the work represents, apart from the jesting second movement, a gradual transition from the sternness of the first movement and the lugubrious death-song of the third, to the life-assertion of the last one.”
The March 12-13 concerts are held at Mandeville Auditorium, UCSD campus. Saturday’s performance begins at 8:00 p.m. Sunday’s matinee begins at 3:00 p.m. A free, pre-concert lecture is offered one hour prior to concert times. Tickets are $15-$29 and can be ordered by calling 858-534-4637. Parking is free on weekends.
The La Jolla Symphony & Chorus, San Diego’s oldest and largest community orchestra and chorus, is a non-profit musical performing group dedicated to inspiring San Diego with the joy of music. Its 110-person orchestra and 130-person chorus perform groundbreaking orchestral and choral music along with traditional favorites from the classical repertoire. During the 55th season, maestro Steven Schick shares the podium with Choral Director David Chase.