Check it out
Wha: UC Davis Symphony Orchestra performing Beethoven and Stravinsky
When: 7 p.m. Sunday
Where: Jackson Hall, Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts
Tickets: $12-$17 general, $8 students; www.mondaviarts.org, 530-754-2787
The UC Davis Symphony will perform two very different and contrasting works at 7 p.m. Sunday in Jackson Hall at the Mondavi Center.
On the first half will be the Triple Concerto by Ludwig van Beethoven, dating from 1803-04 — one of the composer’s sunnier and more affirmative orchestral works, featuring three soloists: cello, violin and piano.
And on the second half will be Le Sacre du Printemps (“The Rite of Spring”), a revolutionary ballet that famously triggered an uproar at its Paris premiere in 1913, with some 40 members of the audience being ejected from the hall. Even after a century, the percussive, spiky “Rite of Spring” still sounds radical, even unsettling. It is now widely regarded as a masterpiece and a turning point in music history, but (to paraphrase an old Paul Simon song) it’s “still shocking after all these years.”
The Beethoven Triple Concerto will be performed in a family context with violinist Jolán Friedhoff, cellist Mark Friedhoff (Jolán’s brother) and pianist Isaac Friedhoff (Mark’s son, Jolán’s nephew) as the soloists.
In addition to family ties, the three Friedhoffs all studied music at Indiana University, one of the nation’s best known music schools. “My nephew Isaac will be the seventh Friedhoff to graduate from IU,” Jolán told The Enterprise.
Jolán and Mark Friedhoff grew up in Portland. After studying at IU, their careers led them to different parts of the world. Jolán served as assistant concertmaster of the Saar State Opera Orchestra in German for 20 years, and as concertmaster of the Sinfonietta Saarbrücken for five seasons. Since settling in Davis a few years ago, she’s performed as either assistant concertmaster or concertmaster with the Berkeley Symphony, the Sacramento Philharmonic, the Modesto Symphony and others. She teaches violin and coaches chamber music at UC Davis.
Mark Friedhoff studied under noted cellist Janos Starker at IU, then became a member of the Tonhalle Orchestra of Zürich, the Symphonische Orchester Berlin and the Orquestra de Cambra del Teatre Lliure in Barcelona.
Isaac Friedhoff was born in Barcelona, and performed a piano concerto by Mozart with the UCD Symphony Orchestra when the orchestra visited that city on a tour of Spain this past spring. He studies piano at IU.
Performing the Beethoven Triple Concerto as a family “is a first for us,” Jolán told The Enterprise. The three Friedhoffs have been in town for several days rehearsing together — “we are bathing in Beethoven this week,” as Jolán put it. “The cello part is the most difficult; it is in the same register as the violin in several sections.”
Conductor Christian Baldini said he invited the Friedhoffs as soloists for the Beethoven “because you need to have three top-notch musicians who know each other, and have played together before. The Beethoven Triple Concerto is a very welcoming piece,” and he anticipates that the family connection between the soloists will help bring that out.
Baldini also clearly relishes the opportunity to conduct the Stravinsky, especially on the occasion of the approaching 100th anniversary of the piece.
“Everything is remarkable about it,” Baldini said, adding that the music often takes surprising turns. “Suddenly, something that seemed to be going at a natural pace just explodes, like a volcano. Stravinsky creates an amazing sound that is animalistic at times.”
The titles of some sections of the piece — like “Ritual of Abduction” and “Sacrificial Dance” — indicate the visceral nature of the underlying themes. Some observers compare the music to a wind-whipped wildfire advancing across a mountainside, with trees shivering in the heat as the blaze approaches, then exploding into flames.
“It can be terrifying,” Baldini agreed.
Many major orchestras are performing “Rite of Spring” this season to mark the work’s 100th anniversary; the New York Philharmonic played it in September, the San Francisco Symphony will perform it next June. But the piece, which requires a very large orchestra, is not done often by the orchestras in these parts. (The most recent performance also was by the UCD Symphony Orchestra, under conductor D. Kern Holoman, in November 2006,)
Tickets for Sunday’s 7 p.m. performance are $12-$17 general, $8 for students, available at www.mondaviarts.org or 530-754-2787.
— Reach Jeff Hudson at [email protected] or 530-747-8055.