Returning to the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox in full force, the Spokane Symphony Orchestra is locked in for a fantastical start to its 77th season this weekend.
Conducted by music director James Lowe, the program includes Hector Berlioz’s “Symphonie fantastique,” Jessie Montgomery’s “Starburst,” and Ludwig van Beethoven’s Fifth Piano Concerto featuring guest pianist Natasha Paremski.
“Natasha’s a phenomenal musician,” Lowe said, mentioning how he and Paremski have collaborated in the past and are looking forward to working together again. “And the Beethoven concerto she’s playing is, I mean … one of the world’s great pieces of art.”
The second movement, he said, has “that rare transcendental quality of music … it takes you somewhere else.
“You hear all of this kind of deep experience of Beethoven … It’s a profoundly touching piece and also very joyous.”
After intermission, the program continues with Berlioz’s “Symphonie fantastique.”
“I would say it’s not so much over the top as halfway down the other side,” Lowe said. “It’s a crazy piece of music, highly romantic.”
As it unfolds, the piece tells a story of a young artist desperately in love with a woman totally indifferent to his existence. He takes opium and winds up in the middle of a nightmarish trip.
“It’s incredibly colorful orchestral writing,” Lowe said. “It’s always a kind of barnstormer of a piece … so I’m excited to tackle that particular mountain again.”
The concert is full of color from start to finish, Lowe said. The orchestra will make a special dedication of their opening performance of “Starburst.”
“This piece is high energy, stringed orchestra and it fits in so well, I think, with the color of the Berlioz,” Lowe said, explaining how it creates the same feeling you find near the end of “Symphony fantastique.”
Despite holding concerts semi-frequently throughout the summer, the prospect of returning to the Fox for the season never loses its sheen.
“Comstock is always nice, but this is the week where we really roll up our sleeves,” Lowe said. “It’s a little bit like, you know, if you’re an athlete and you take a couple of days off, you feel it a little bit.
“I mean for the musicians, their instruments hardly ever leave their hands, but when you play together as an ensemble, it’s always a question of finding each other again, listening to each other, breathing together.”
Of course, he said, these musicians have played together for a long time, so the process is a quick one.
“But still, there’s that nice feeling of coming back together again, finding the sound and finding the ensemble again,” Lowe said.
This year, the orchestra welcomes several new musicians, including principal flutist Julia Pike, third horn Andrew Angelos, assistant principal horn Henry Nordhorn and principal trombone John Church.
“A handful of new players … are always going to change the dynamic of the orchestra and I’m really, really looking forward to see how as we’re, like I say, finding ourselves again,” Lowe said.
Stephanie Hammett can be reached at (509) 459-5013 or at email@example.com.
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