‘Russian Adventure’ kicks off season

FRIDAY, SEPT. 21, 2012

Preu eager for symphony’s season-opening concert featuring acclaimed pianist Trifonov

When the Spokane Symphony opens its season this weekend with “A Russian Adventure,” one of the featured pieces will have some special meaning for music director Eckart Preu.

Preu, who was born and raised in the former East Germany, will be conducting Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 in D minor for the first time in his career.

“I feel very connected to Shostakovich since he speaks about what I experienced (a tamer version) in my childhood: living in a dictatorial regime, suppression – and the resulting sadness, loneliness, but also friendship, defiance, and inner strength that comes with it,” Preu said in an email interview.

When the Leningrad Philharmonic premiered Symphony No. 5 in D minor in 1937, it received a nearly 30-minute ovation. This work brought Shostakovich back into favor, for the time being, with the Soviet music officials of Josef Stalin regime.

Cast in the four traditional movements, this work both brought great public acclaim to the composer and also satisfied his personal growth as an artist without compromising his creative integrity.

From the opening astringent string canon of the first movement and the witty, satirical scherzo, through the elegiac third movement (without brass) to the intensity of the final measures, this work is a testament to Shostakovich’s symphonic genius.

Also on the bill is a performance of Sergei Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3, featuring 21-year-old pianist Daniil Trifonov.

Trifonov, who won top honors at the XIV International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow during 2011, has earned rave reviews for one so young. Legendary pianist Martha Argrich, who won a Grammy in 2000 for her recording of the Prokofiev, was quoted last year as saying, “Last night I listened to him again on YouTube – he has everything and more. What he does with his hands is technically incredible. It’s also his touch – he has tenderness and also the demonic element.”

Earlier this year, critic Norman Lebrecht called Trifonov a major artist and “a pianist for the rest of our lives.”

For Preu, bringing Trifonov was an easy choice. “I have never worked with Daniil before. I’m always on the lookout for new talent, and after he won one of the most prestigious and arguably most competitive (competition), his name was all over,” he said. “A week after playing in Spokane he will be performing with the New York Philharmonic.”

Piano Concerto No. 3 in C major is the best known of the five piano concertos by Prokofiev. It was completed in 1921 using material that dated back to 1913. The first and third movements present extreme technical challenges for the soloist. Movement two, theme and variations, is a good example of the composer expressing his humor and ingenuity in music – like his better known works “Peter and the Wolf” and “Love of Three Oranges.”

Opening the performance will be “Fox Fanfare” by Hans-Peter Preu, Preu’s brother. This work was commissioned for the Symphony’s inaugural performance in the Fox five years ago.

Donivan Johnson, who lives in Metaline Falls, is a composer, lecturer and K-12 music instructor for the Selkirk School District.

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