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Associate Director of Orchestras, David Loebel conducts the NEC Symphony in Rachmaninoff's Symphonic Dances, Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 1 with soloist Elina Akselrud, and Shenanigan by Kati Agócs of the faculty.
Composed in 2010 for the Hamilton (Canada) Philharmonic Orchestra, Kati Agócs’ Shenanigan is a four minute orchestral hoedown that is already proving popular with orchestras. Indeed, it is being programmed by three different orchestras for the 2013-14 season.
According to the composer, the work “draws its inspiration from reels that entered the musical tradition of Atlantic and French-speaking Canada in the waves of immigration from England and Ireland. I played with the symmetrical phrase structure and static harmony of the original improvised dances, developing the melodies and rhythms, infusing them with my own piquant harmonies, and interlacing iridescent orchestral colors. The resulting hybrid melds traditional folk reel with a full symphonic palette.” Shenanigan features the principal flutist as a soloist. Reviewing the piece in the Toronto Star after a 2012 performance by the Toronto Symphony, John Terauds wrote: "The evening opened with Shenanigan, a hoedown whirl of symphonic fun......a burst of party energy..."
The Chopin Piano Concerto No. 1 was written when the composer was no older than many NEC students. And he composed it for himself, since a young professional soloist needed concertos as a calling card (except in Paris, where the Polish-born and trained Chopin eventually landed, and which considered concertos passé). And although the orchestra serves as a velvet backdrop to the glittering jewel that is the soloist, the work should not be dismissed as compositionally inferior. It features not only Chopin’s incomparable melodic genius (think bel canto lyricism à la Bellini) and technical brilliance, but also his distinctive harmonic sophistication. The soloist tonight, Elina Akselrud, was chosen to perform through NEC’s annual concerto competitions.
Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances, written in 1940 for the Philadelphia Orchestra and conductor Eugene Ormandy, was the composer’s last completed work. Without being in the least elegiac, it is a kind of compositional summing up of a life in music. A three-movement suite, it contains many of the composer’s signature characteristics: lush melodies, rhythmic vitality, contrapuntal layering, and reminiscences of Russian and Gregorian church music including the “Dies Irae” hymn that is prominent in three of his symphonies and the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. There are also several quotations of Rachmaninoff’s own earlier pieces. Of particular interest is the use of the solo alto saxophone.