Auburn Symphony to play Russian favorites at Mondavi

By From page A7 | April 25, 2012

The Auburn Symphony — which travels “down the mountain” annually to perform in the resonant acoustic setting of  the Mondavi Center — will present an all-Russian program on Sunday, April 29, at 3 p.m. in Jackson Hall.

On the program will be:

The “Festive Overture,” written in 1954 by Soviet-era composer Dmitri Shostakovich. This brassy, uptempo six-minute piece was reportedly completed in just three days — Shostakovich was a composer who could work fast, when he wanted to. (On a dare, when he was a “boy wonder” composer in his 20s, Shostakovich took on the task of composing an orchestration of the showtune Americans know as”Tea for Two,” just to see how quickly he could get it finished. Shostakovich coolly completed a three-minute version of the piece for orchestra in 45 minutes flat.)

The grand, ebullient “Festive Overture” was officially written to commemorate the 37th anniversary of the 1917 revolution that created the Soviet Union. But there are those who suggest that the composer was actually celebrating the death of Soviet leader Josef Stalin (who Shostakovich regarded as his nemesis) during the preceding year. (The Auburn Symphony has made the music of Shostakovich something of a theme — last year, the orchestra performed the Shostakovich Fifth Symphony at Mondavi.)

The program will also feature two popular works by 19th Century Russian composer Alexander Borodin — “In the Steppes of Central Asia” (a colorful tone poem from 1880); and the “Polovetsian Dances,” a piece drawn from Borodin’s opera “Prince Igor,” to be performed by the Auburn Symphony accompanied by several combined choirs, including the Apollo Chorus and Sierra College Choir. Closing out the program will be Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2 in E Minor (1906-07).

Although Auburn is located in the Sierra foothills about an hour’s drive to the east of Davis, several members of the orchestra live in Davis, including flute principal Maquette Kuper and double bass principal Greg Brucker.

The guest conductor for this concert will be Peter Jaffe of the Stockton Symphony. The Auburn Symphony’s longtime conductor Michael Goodwin died in an auto accident in February. Jaffe has been leading the Stockton Symphony for 17 years, he has also conducted orchestras in many other cities around the country, and has served for many years on the faculty of the Aspen Music Festival.

Tickets are $40 general, $20 students, www.mondaviarts.org or (530) 754-2787.

Jeff Hudson

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