The Spokane Symphony’s 77th season ends with a banger
May 11, 2023 Updated Thu., May 11, 2023 at 2:15 p.m.
The sounds of Eastern Europe aren’t what most folks reach for first when in search of an uplift. However, nothing boosts Spokane Symphony conductor James Lowe’s mood quite like a classical blast from Hungary and Romania. Lowe will close the Symphony’s 77th season with classical pieces rooted in folk music.
“We’re going to end this season of Masterworks with a bang,” Lowe said. “This music is upbeat, exciting and different.”
Lowe, who will be flanked by violinist Benjamin Beilman, will conduct the Symphony as it plays Bela Bartok’s Hungarian Sketches, Johannes Brahms’ Violin Concerto, Igor Stravinsky’s “The Firebird: Suite” (1919 version) and Gyorgy Ligeti’s Concert Romanesc on Saturday and Sunday at the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox.
The latter particularly moves Lowe. “The can’t miss-piece of the night is Concert Romanesac, which is a ripsnorter,” Lowe said. “It’s a phenomenal piece that’s like a mini-concerto. Everybody gets a solo and the piece is just hugely energetic. Just think about what it was like back in the day when all of these Romanians were going crazy to this piece. It’s truly inspired.”
Lowe is just as excited about the folk music from each piece as by the explosiveness of Concert Romanesac. “I’m fascinated by the brilliant folk music from Hungary and Romania,” Lowe said. “I always wonder why the sounds from that region are so unique, just like I wonder why the sounds of Scotland are completely theirs. Hungarian and Romanian music are different. The music is weirder. It’s just out there. Bartok composed Hungarian Sketches after going around the world recording sounds on this primitive device. He came back and made something that sounds Hungarian.
“And then there’s Stravinsky, who came up with a Slavic story of an ogre and a princess. It’s all very colorful. When you look at all of these pieces, it’s a fun way to end the season of Masterworks.”
Even though it’s Lowe’s fourth year as conductor of the symphony, it feels like his first.
“That’s all due to the pandemic,” Lowe said. “This is the first complete season for me here in so many ways. It’s important to have a complete season since I’ve finally gotten to know my colleagues.
“The dialogue goes two ways and it’s been a fantastic time since we started this (last September). The soloists have been fantastic. The symphony is phenomenal and it’s been an amazing year in terms of what we accomplished. We look to build on it next year. It’s also been an exhausting season. I would like to lie down and have a cup of tea now if I only had the time.”
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