DPO opens Masterworks and Classical Connections Series

Concerts feature guest pianist Kristofer Rucinski

The Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra’s 2017-18 Masterwork Series salutes legendary composer/conductor Leonard Bernstein, American composer Lou Harrison, and Czech composer Antonin Dvořák Friday, Sept. 22, and Saturday, Sept. 23, at the Schuster Center.

In celebration of the 100th anniversary of Leonard Bernstein’s birth, occurring in August 2018, the concert opens with the composer’s marvelously spirited “Candide” Overture from his classic 1956 musical of the same name based on Voltaire’s novel.

“For my money, it’s the second-best four-minute overture in history,” said DPO Artistic Director and Conductor Neal Gittleman, who gives the top spot to Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro.” “(However), the ‘Candide’ Overture is the No. 1 potpourri overture. It’s almost entirely made up of excerpts from songs in the show, woven together with consummate skill. It also has one of the best endings of all time.”

ALSO FOR FALL: 4 things you may not know about Ohio’s biggest Oktoberfest

Considered a member of the “West Coast Maverick school of composers,” Lou Harrison notably questioned or rebelled against elements of Western musical tradition. In fact, he worked to create new harmonies. The DPO will present his flavorful and challenging Piano Concerto, created in four movements and particularly written for jazz pianist Keith Jarrett.

"Harrison was a 'world music' guy long before that term was invented," Gittleman noted. "He was fascinated by non-Western musical styles, especially Asian music, and Indonesia's gamelan percussion orchestras. So, crazily enough, this is a piece whose main influences are gamelan and, of all things, Brahms. Brahms was Harrison's favorite dead composer and he patterned many things in this piece on Brahms' Second Piano Concerto. The piece uses an unusual orchestra: strings, trombones, harps, and unpitched percussion such as drums, maracas, and sleigh bells."

Guest pianist and Ashland, Ky., native Kristofer Rucinski, very familiar with the intricacies and dexterity of Harrison’s music, will perform the concerto.

LOVE MUSIC? 5 treasures we found for $20 at this record store

“It is a masterpiece, unequivocally,” said Rucinski, a graduate assistant at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music who has performed dozens of world premieres throughout the Midwest and South. “Not only does it have that essential factor that such great works have, that is its melodies, its rhythms, its textures, touch one’s soul. But it also has a feature not required of all masterworks, but it’s definitely a plus. That is, innovation. It presents the listener with something new, something they haven’t encountered before. To relate it to my own experience, this was true in more ways than one.”

The program will conclude with Dvořák’s Symphony No. 8, considered an homage to his Czech homeland. In fact, the second movement is regarded as almost a tone poem of Czech village life.

“Above all, this one’s for the musicians of the orchestra,” Gittleman said. “This is one of almost every orchestral musician’s favorite pieces to play.”

Next Sunday's Classical Connections Series, dubbed "Bold Pathfinder: Lou Harrison," will allow a closer look at Harrison's Piano Concerto and specifically feature the University of Dayton Gamelan Ensemble. Founded in 2009, the UD Gamelan Ensemble performs on a custom-made set of instruments built in Java, Indonesia. The concert includes Harrison's "Estampie" from Suite for Symphonic Strings as well as Gittleman's insights and explanation of the aforementioned Piano Concerto. A casual Q&A session moderated by Gittleman will follow the concert in the Wintergarden along with a free scoop of Graeter's ice cream.


What: "Dvořák's Eighth: Shadow and Light" (Masterworks Series) and "Bold Pathfinder: Lou Harrison" (Classical Connections Series)

Where: Mead Theatre of the Schuster Center, Second and Main Streets, Dayton

When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday (Masterworks Series); 3 p.m. Next Sunday (Classical Connections Series)

Cost: $16-$65 (Masterworks Series); $15-$43 (Classical Connections Series)

Tickets/more info: Call Ticket Center Stage at (937) 228-3630 or visit www.ticketcenterstage.com

About the Author