Geneva Anderson digs into art

Summer at Green Music Center’s Weill Hall—this evening, violinist Sarah Chang and French pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet perform with Moscow’s Best, the Russian National Orchestra

French pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet performs with the Grammy award-winning Russian National Orchestra, conducted by Carlo Montanaro at Weill Hall on Tuesday, July16, 2013. Violinist Sarah Cheng also guest solos.

French pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet performs with the Grammy award-winning Russian National Orchestra, conducted by Carlo Montanaro at Weill Hall on Tuesday, July16, 2013. Violinist Sarah Cheng also guest solos.

There’s a special performance at the Green Music Center’s Weill Hall this evening.  As part of their summer programming, which has a particularly festive bend, GMC is partnering with Napa Valley’s Festival Del Sole in presenting the Russian National Orchestra (RNO), conducted by Carlo Montanaro, with renowned violinist Sarah Chang performing Samuel Barber’s popular Violin Concerto, and sensational pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet in Saint-Saëns’ “Egyptian” Piano Concerto No. 5, a rarely-performed gem.  The concerts starts early, at 6:30 p.m., and ample tickets are still available in most areas except the front orchestra, so tickets can be purchased right before the performance at the GMC box office which closes at 4 p.m. and then re-opens at 5:30 p.m.

The Program—

Dmitri Shostakovich / Festive Overture, Op. 96:  Shostakovich wrote this short lively piece in 1954 for a concert held at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow to commemorate the 37th anniversary of the 1917 October Revolution.  A victim of Stalin’s suppression, he worked heroically under stifling conditions but was unable to share his music.  Many music historians have posited that piece’s ebullience reflects his relief over Stalin’s departure and his ability to practice his art freely.  It is based it on Glinka’s Russlan and Ludmilla overture from 1842, and it features the same lively tempo and style of melody.  The overture was played at the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow and at the 2009 Nobel Prize concert.

Founded in 1990 by pianist and conductor Mikhail Pietnev, the Russian National Orchestra is described as “a living symbol of the best in Russian art” (Miami Herald) and “as close to perfect as one could hope for” (Classics Today).  The orchestra is unique among leading Russian ensembles in that it is a private institution funded with the support of individuals, corporations and foundations in Russia and worldwide.  The RNO maintains an active international tour schedule, appearing in Europe, Asia and the Americas and its guest artists include Nicola Luisotti, San Francisco Opera’s beloved Music Director and Renée Fleming, who opens GMC 2nd season on September 15, 2013.  The RNO is the resident orchestra of the Festival de Sole.

Camille Saint-Saëns / Piano Concerto No. 5 in F Major, Op. 103:  This concerto is nicknamed “The Egyptian” for two reasons. Saint-Saëns composed it in the temple town of Luxor while on one of his frequent winter vacations to Egypt, and secondly, the music is a synthesis of his far-flung eastern wanderings displaying influences from Javanese and Spanish as well as Middle-eastern music.  While it’s hard to imagine now, in 1872, Saint-Saëns received a large bequest from the estate of the director of the French Post Office, who expressed that a gifted composer should not have to work (as organist of La Madeleine in Paris) to supplement his income.  This bequest, together with income from royalties and performance fees, freed Saint-Saëns indulge his passion for travel.  He conducted in Moscow, London, and the United States and travelled to Egypt, Brazil, Ceylon, and Algiers.  He premiered the piece in 1896 with himself as soloist at a Jubilee Concert commemorating his debut 50 years earlier.

Thibaudet is known for coaxing the most amazing nuances from each work he performs and has recorded over 40 albums.  He has also collaborated on the soundtracks of Oscar-wining and nominated films Atonement and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.   He was just 20 when he was invited to be a guest soloist with the Napa Valley Symphony Orchestra and performed the Saint-Saëns concerto that he will be playing this evening.  For a delightful rendition of that performance and Thibaudet’s long-abiding passion for Napa Valley, click here to read L. Pierce Carson’s article in the Napa Valley Register.

Jean-Yves Thibaudet on Saint-Saëns’ Piano Concerto No. 5 – The Egyptian 

Samuel Barber / Violin Concerto, Op. 14:  Commissioned by Philadelphia soap magnate, Samuel Fels for Russian violinist Iso Briselli, this controversial concerto, completed in 1939, was subsequently rejected by the Russian virtuoso.  Its tragic lyricism is in large part due to its dramatic violin parts which should find their true intense expression under Sarah Chang. Since her debut with the New York Philharmonic at the age of 8, Chang has performed with the greatest orchestras, conductors and accompanists internationally in a career spanning more than two decades.  Her latest recording of the Brahms and Bruch violin concertos (EMI, Bruch: Violin Concerto No.1 / Brahms: Violin Concerto, 2009) has been voted one of the top 250 best recordings of all time in Gramophone magazine.  If you’ve never seen Chang perform live before, you’re in for a remarkable experience.  Her intense bow strikes often seem like attacks. Her restless stage presence includes bending backwards, flipping her hair and making anguished facial gestures all while donning a body-hugging evening gown.

Sarah Chang performs Bruch Violin Concerto 3rd Movement

Sarah Chang age 12 masters Paganini’s Violin Concerto

Details:  Ticket purchases can be made online at, or over the phone with the Sonoma State University Box Office at 866.955.6040 or in person at the Box Office which is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and one hour before all performances.

For more information about the Green Music Center, visit .

For more information about Festival del Sole, which runs through July 21, 2013 and presents over 60 events featuring the stars of music, dance and theatre, visit .

July 16, 2013 Posted by | Classical Music, Green Music Center | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment