The Galveston Symphony Orchestra will play an early Valentine’s Day concert at 4 p.m. Sunday at The Grand 1894 Opera House. Music Director Trond Saeverud talked about the program.
Q. It’s a Valentine’s Day concert. Please tell us about the theme. We’d expect romance, but are we also to expect music from the Romantic period?
A. Yes, this is a mostly romantic program: Tchaikovsky’s is probably the most famous of all romantic violin concerti, full of sultry, passionate melodies. Sibelius, though living halfway into the 20th century, was still writing romantic music, intensely personal, emotional, and with the true romantic’s fascination with exotic places and mystical creatures and occurrences. Shakespeare’s “Tempest” is a romantic tale. It even has a happy ending — almost Hollywood style!
Q. Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto is justly famous. The California critic Jim Svejda says it’s full of warmth, color and “abiding romance.” What made you choose it?
A. For those reasons! This remains a favorite with audiences and players alike. A most satisfying conclusion of a Valentines Concert — yes, we are playing the concerto last, after intermission.
Q. Please tell us about the violinist, Angelo Xiang Yu, who won the Yehudi Menuhin competition for violin. How did you get him to come to Galveston?
A. We were very fortunate to get Angelo to Galveston. He is fast becoming a major international player — and we were lucky to find him this early! The process involves extensive online research and continuous contact with agents and promoters.
Q. Sibelius’s “The Tempest” was a huge deal when it was first performed — Shakespeare was an acknowledged genius and Sibelius was too, at least at that time. Sibelius carved out two suites from the original production. You don’t hear either suite performed much in the United States, and this might be a first for Valentine’s Day concert. How does it fit into your theme?
A. Well, the sweet romance between the main characters and the happy ending, for a start! Starting with the storm, “The Tempest” moves from darkness to light and resolves everything blissfully. But that would be too saccharine for Sibelius, who likes dark undertones and, in this suite, changes the order of events to end with the terrifying storm — a powerful and exciting close to our concert’s first half.
Still, between various quirky outbursts, we get long passages of pure, innocent beauty and tranquility — some of Sibelius’s most tender and gorgeous writing. “The Tempest” was one of his last works, and it is especially admired for his use of innovative instrumentation (combinations of instruments) to create sounds and moods that describe strange characters and weirdly surreal surroundings. At the last rehearsal, one player burst out: “it sounds as if we’re all on acid.” From stage, I will describe some of the events that are depicted in the music.
Q. Also, we’re going to hear from a contemporary Norwegian, Torstein Aargaard-Nilsen, who seems to have written everything from chamber music to pieces for military bands. Is “Awakening” a romantic composition?
A. No! I must admit that it is not ... but it is an exciting piece that showcases our great wind, brass and percussion players. This is a world premiere of this version of “Awakening,” rewritten for the GSO for this concert! It connects in many ways with Sibelius, one of Aagaard-Nilsen’s favorite composers, especially in the extensive use of percussion. Lots of fun sounds from the back of the stage! All this ruckus sharpens the appetite for something very different after intermission: a beautiful old Italian violin singing, soaring.