May 4, 2012 in Features

Symphony stages ‘Grand Finale’

Renowned cellist Roman arrives for season-ending ‘Don Quixote’
Donivan Johnson Correspondent
If you go

‘Don Quixote: A Grand Finale’

What: The Spokane Symphony and Eckart Preu conclude their season with works by Strass, Tchaikovsky and de Falla, with cellist Joshua Roman, pictured above.

When: Saturday, 8 p.m.; Sunday, 3 p.m.

Where: Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox, 1001 W. Sprague Ave.

Cost: $22-$44, available at The Fox box office, (509) 624-1200,, or through any TicketsWest outlet.

To conclude its season, the Spokane Symphony Orchestra is bringing in a classical “rock star.”

Guest cellist Joshua Roman will join the symphony and music director Eckart Preu in the performance of two works for this weekend’s season finale: Variations on a Rococo Theme by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and the tone-poem “Don Quixote” by Richard Strauss. Filling out the concert will be “The Three Cornered Hat,” Suite No. 1 and No. 2 by Manuel de Falla.

The San Francisco Chronicle called Roman a “cellist of extraordinary technical and musical gifts” following his 2010 debut with the San Francisco Symphony.

At 22 he was named principal cellist of the Seattle Symphony and has appeared as a soloist with numerous orchestras throughout the United States and South America. Roman was home-schooled until he was 16 and then furthered his musical studies at the Cleveland Institute of Music where he received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

“I’ve worked with him twice,” Preu said. “Each time he succeeded to inspire the orchestra as well as the audience.”

This Friday at 4 p.m., Roman will give a master class in the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox. The free event is open to the public. This is a rare opportunity to hear and watch Roman teach in person.

Preu says this weekend’s concerts present “music about characters – male characters mostly. They’re mostly anti-heroes actually and make for great musical inspiration and colorful music.”

Going further, he added, “I love the de Falla – it has all the good stuff Spanish music has to offer. Strangely enough, Strauss didn’t include much of the Spanish musical idiom. His own musical language is rich enough – and I assume that he wanted to make the character of Don Quixote more universal.”

Manuel de Falla composed “The Three Cornered Hat” at the request of Sergey Diaghilev, impresario of the Ballet Russe. Premiered in London in 1919, the ballet has seven numbers from which the composer extracted two orchestral suites. This concert will present two selections from Suite No. 1 and three dances from Suite No. 2.

The word “Rococo” in the title of Tchaikovsky’s work refers to “old-fashioned” rather than the ornate style of art and architecture. The reduced orchestra and composed theme are a tribute to 18th century classicism that Tchaikovsky revered. There are seven variations and a coda to the theme.

This work is a tour de force for the solo cellist, with cadenzas and passage work that are technically daunting. Tchaikovsky called upon a colleague of his to help with composing the challenging solo cello part.

“Don Quixote” is one of several tone poems by Strauss that portray a fictional or legendary protagonist: “Thus Spoke Zarathustra,” “Don Juan,” “Till Eulenspiegel,” “A Hero’s Life” among others.

In “Don Quixote,” the persona of “The Knight of the Sorrowful Countenance” is played by the cellist and a solo viola represents his companion Sancho Panza. This will be performed by principal violist Nick Carper.

Donivan Johnson, who lives in Metaline Falls, Wash., is a composer, lecturer and music instructor for the Selkirk School District.

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