What: UC Davis Symphony Orchestra
When: 7 p.m. Sunday
Where: Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts
Tickets: $12-$17 general, $8 students/children; www.mondaviarts.org, 530-754-2787
The UC Davis Symphony Orchestra will play a perennial audience favorite — one of the suites from Sergei Prokofiev’s ballet “Romeo and Juliet” — as well as three unusual and less familiar works when the orchestra performs on Sunday evening.
“We will be presenting four very different works, including a world premiere, a U.S. premiere, a very rarely performed work and a classic!” conductor Christian Baldini said. “We are featuring an astonishing brand-new piece by one of my colleagues, professor Laurie San Martin, written for two marimbas, played by UCD’s Chris Froh and Mayumi Hama, one of the world’s celebrated marimba players, who is coming from Japan to premiere this work.
“The work is super virtuosic and highlights the strengths of such unique soloists in a very clever way.”
Another piece is “Icy Disintegration,” by Chinese/Australian composer Annie Hsieh, whom UCD selected internationally to come to its festival, Baldini continued.
“It is a very colorful, delicate and very well-crafted piece, and it makes use of instruments in a very original way, such as wiring a piece of paper in the low register of the piano and harp, which gives a rattling, unusual effect.”
The piece that will close the first half is Gyorgi Ligeti’s “Mysteries of the Macabre,” for coloratura soprano and orchestra, Baldini said.
“Ligeti is is one of my favorite composers. He always surprised the audience in the most unexpected, original and very musical way,” he said. “This work is taken from his opera from the ’70s, ‘Le grand Macabre,’ and it portrays the communications of Gepopo, chief of the secret service, as he announces that the world is about to end, and panic takes over. A series of unexpected, humorous turns lead us to almost impossible places.
“Ligeti’s musical landscapes remind me of the paintings by Escher, where impossible images are created. Here, impossible musical events take place, such as a cadenza for the bass trombone or the contrabassoon, or the unique blend between music, humor and drama. There will also be a little surprise in this piece!”
Closing the program is the central piece, Prokofiev’s Suite No. 2 from his 1930s ballet “Romeo and Juliet.”
“Prokofiev is another exemplary composer when it comes to telling a story through music,” Baldini said. “The beginning of the suite portrays the opposite extremes of the two families, the Capulets and Montagues, by using the winds, brass and percussion for one family, in F major, and only the strings for the other family, in B minor, a very distant key. Harmonically, we immediately get the sense that something is not to be easily reconciled.
“Such mastery and skill in orchestration are typical of Prokofiev throughout this work, one of the true masterpieces of the ballet repertoire.”
Baldini added that, “Interestingly, three of the four composers represented in this program comply with the ‘migration’ theme. Ligeti was Hungarian but emigrated to Germany and Austria. Annie Hsieh lives in Australia, of Chinese origin. Prokofiev was Russian, but lived a good part of his life in Paris, and also the U.S., but then went back to the Soviet Union.”
San Martin said her new concerto was inspired by marimba player Mayumi Hama’s performance of a piece called “He Who Runs Swiftly,” which can be found on YouTube. “Mayumi’s riveting playing shed new light on what the marimba could do,” San Martin said.
“My concerto, titled ‘lay/overlay,’ begins with an ebullient and virtuosic cadenza in the two marimbas,” San Martin continued. “This opening sets the stage for a highly charged exchange. … The orchestra moves on a different plane than the marimba soloists, and avoids competing for the limelight.
“It’s almost as if the marimba soloists are running a marathon at record speed while the orchestra is taking a (nervous and restrained) stroll through the countryside. The two marimba soloists always play together, which makes it seem less like two performers and more like one giant super-marimba.”
The concert will begin at 7 p.m. Sunday in the Mondavi Center’s Jackson Hall. Tickets are $12-$17 general, $8 for students and children, available at www.mondaviarts.org or 530-754-2787.
— Reach Jeff Hudson at email@example.com or 530-747-8055.