When violinist Benjamin Beilman arrives in Spokane, he’ll only have two chances to rehearse with the Spokane Symphony before they step on stage for “Classics 8: The Russian Soul,” Saturday and Sunday at the Fox Theater.
Two is actually more than usual, as Beilman said he often only gets a dress rehearsal before showtime.
“You really have to know what you’re doing, and obviously the orchestra knows what they’re doing,” he said.
But, Beilman said, the point of these rehearsals is not to learn the music, it’s to unify the interpretations of the three components of the concerto: himself, the conductor and the orchestra.
Unifying interpretations with the Spokane Symphony and conductor Eckart Preu shouldn’t be too difficult for Beilman, as he performed with the symphony in 2015 for “Tchaikovsky and Sibelius.”
Thinking back to that performance, Beilman remembers the ease with which he, the symphony and guest conductor Robert Moody collaborated on Jean Sibelius’ violin concerto. He also remembers working with the symphony made the often-played piece feel fresh.
For “The Russian Soul,” Beilman will perform Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto, a piece he calls the most titanic of violin concertos.
“If you haven’t heard it, it’s sure to become a favorite of any listener,” he said.
To give audiences an authentic experience listening to Tchaikovsky’s concerto, Beilman and Preu have decided to perform the piece as it was originally written, adding back in parts that were cut by the violinist whom Tchaikovsky had wanted to premiere the piece.
“It actually does change some of the meaning of it,” Beilman said of the edits. “A lot of the things that were cut out, especially in the third movement, were these repetitions, which if you don’t look closely, it looks like he just wants to fill up time.
“If you really actually try and discover the meaning behind it, I think there is this idea that … he’s desperately trying to do something, he’s trying to reach for something and he keeps falling into a rut. You hear the precursors of that in the first and second movement and so to me, it’s so obvious that you should play the original version.”
The program also features Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 9.
The lone piece on the program not by a Russian composer is Italian composer Tomaso Albinoni’s Adagio for Organ and Strings in G minor, which replaces Mikhail Glinka’s “Kararinskaya.” This piece is a tribute to symphony keyboardist and guest soloist Kendall Feeney, who died earlier this month after battling cancer.
“The Russian Soul” also honors the memory of Dr. Elizabeth Welty, longtime friend and supporter of the symphony and the Fox Theater who died in September.
Though he’s never been to Russia, Beilman recognizes elements of the Russian personalities he’s encountered in the music industry in the Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich pieces.
“When you interact with Russians, there’s a certain sense that they will never be insincere,” he said. “At times, it may be interpreted as being direct, not cold, but a little bit stark. But the generosity of spirit that they always bring to performances and when you’ve gotten inside or deeper than that first layer, it’s so unbelievably genuine, so unbelievably warm.”
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