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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

SSO Masterworks 4: ‘Fire & Ice’ to feature one of classical music’s most iconic crowd-pleasers

Rounding out a politically polarizing week, the Spokane Symphony’s “Fire & Ice” masterworks concert will feature one of the classical music world’s most iconic crowd-pleasers.

Edvard Grieg’s piano concerto may be considered an “old reliable” of sorts to some in the realm of orchestral programming. But the concerto is popular for good reason, symphony music director James Lowe explained.

“There are some pieces that people call ‘war horses,’ ” Lowe said, referring to works that get rolled out over and over again. “And sure, the Grieg is played a lot, but the reason is that it’s absolutely magnificent music.

“It’s a beautiful, very profound work … so I make absolutely no apology for programming it.”

The first half of the program will include Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Dance of the Skomorokhi” from “The Snow Maiden” before pianist Tanya Gabrielian takes the stage to perform the Grieg concerto.

Gabrielian will be playing the concerto with an orchestra for the first time.

“It’s kind of funny to come to this point in my career and never have played this,” she said. “That I can kind of look at it with fresh eyes – it’s really exciting.”

Gabrielian is thrilled to be sharing the piece with symphony-goers at every level of experience.

“It’s such a dynamic piece, really virtuosic,” Gabrielian said. “You could not know anything about classical music and still be wowed by the majesty of the piece.”

After intermission, the program continues with Stephen Montague’s “Snowscape: St Pölten” and Carl Nielsen’s fourth symphony, “The Inextinguishable.”

Nielsen’s “inextinguishable” symphony begins in chaos, crescendoing through various battles until, “bit by bit the orchestra comes to this incredible, glorious ending,” Lowe said.

“In times of instability and worry, music like this really has an important role to play,” he said.

Lowe had originally programmed another symphony to close the concert. But the week Russia invaded Ukraine, he decided to program the Nielsen in its place.

“I felt what we would probably need by now is a piece about triumph over adversity,” he said. A piece that illustrates about “nothing less than the universal will to life and the ability of life to overcome … and my goodness me, I can’t think of a piece that does it as strongly as this.”

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