Editor’s note: The Galveston Symphony Orchestra will begin 2019 with a pops concert. Music Director Trond Saeverud talks about the program.
Q. What are the highlights?
A. All three Russian capriccios are festive and entertaining, befitting a New Year celebration concert. We’re also excited to invite players from Bay Area Youth Symphony to open the concert.
Q. Is this a first, a new role for the Bay Area Youth Symphony?
A. Yes! For some time, the youth symphony members have played before the concert, but players and parents were worried about the small audience at that time. Starting with the oldest (symphony) group, we’re now trying a new model where BAYS occasionally plays at the beginning of an actual concert. BAYS musicians are very grateful for this opportunity, and I hope they will be well received.
Q. Where did this interest in capriccio — or caprice — among the Russians come from? One story is that Mikhail Glinka, who was enormously influential in the development of Russian music, came back from Spain with a melody stuck in his mind. Was that it?
A. Yes, this Spanish connection is important, and we’re including the composition Glinka wrote in response to his happy stay in Spain. Rimsky-Korsakov’s piece was inspired by visiting the country as a naval officer — and Tchaikovsky wrote his caprice after a very enjoyable trip to Italy. So, all three compositions resulted from these Russians’ happy journeys to sunny destinations. And they sound like it!
Q. When Rimsky-Korsakov’s capriccio debuted, the audience applauded until the orchestra played the entire piece again. That’s really popular, but there’s a lot going on. It’s not just a simple tune. How does “popular” sometimes become so highly developed?
A. I think this piece’s popularity is based on the overall excitement, adrenaline rush, exotic scenery and festivities — and in particular Korsakov’s effective and entertaining use of the instruments. It’s really one of the defining qualities of classical music that melody, in the traditional (singable) sense is often less important. (One example is Beethoven, who wrote entire symphonies without a single hummable tune.) Yes, Capriccio Espagnol is hugely popular! Also with musicians: the premiering orchestra applauded after every movement at the first rehearsal. This cannot be claimed by any other piece in the orchestral repertoire.
Q. Often, there’s something in these pops concerts that blurs the distinction between “popular” and “serious” music. Did you choose a particular piece with that in mind?
A. Well, only in the sense that all the pieces are of “masterworks” quality, yet fun and lighthearted enough to fit in a pops concert. Also, complying with pop concert expectations of shorter works is that each piece is split into several short sections. I will talk a little about those along the way. We’re looking very much forward to celebrating the New Year with our great audience!