Stories through song
The Williamsport Symphony Orchestra will share three “Fantastic Tales” – each with vastly different stories and musical arrangements – with its upcoming concert Feb. 11 at the Community Arts Center, 220 W. Fourth St.
Featured musician for the February concert is Max Zorin, a violinist and WSO’s own concertmaster. Zorin can be seen at each concert entering the stage directly before the music director and leading the tuning of the instruments before the music begins.
“This is not a common solo appearance. We are used to the solo coming from someone who is isolated from the orchestra,” explained Masetro Gerardo Edelstein, WSO music director. “In this case he is integrated … his solo will come from (within) the orchestra.”
Edelstein and Zorin met in 2005 when Zorin joined the faculty at Penn State University as a professor of music. Edelstein joined the WSO in 2009 and invited Zorin to audition for the concertmaster position, which was open at the time.
The position of concertmaster is essential to the orchestra, Edelstein noted, as the concertmaster is the second in command and is in charge of leading the entire string section, organizing the tuning of instruments and leading musicians in the bowing of instruments (the technique the audience views when musicians move their bows along their instruments in unison, creating a synchronized effect).
Zorin’s violin will function as storyteller for the WSO performance of “Sheherazade, Suite Symphonique, Op. 35” by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov. The piece is based on the story of “One Thousand and One Nights,” also known as “The Arabian Nights.” The four movements of the piece are based around groups of tales told by Scheherazade, a young woman who volunteered to marry a sultan who was known to marry virgins and kill them the day after the wedding in order to keep them from becoming unfaithful. Scheherazade told her husband a story each night for 1,001 nights to distract him and keep him from killing more women. The sultan was taken by his new wife’s stories and continued allowing her to live in order to hear more each night. Edelstein said the symphony’s composer, Rimsky-Korsakov, “was captured by this story.”
Instead of choosing a few stories to feature from the thousands told by Scheherazade, Rimsky-Korsakov created a tone poem with four movements that shared the mood of the tales. “The idea was not to tell a particular story with each movement but just to give an idea what each tale was about,” he said, adding that the piece is cyclical in that “all the movements are connected.”
Edelstein said Rimsky-Korsakov was an exceptionally “colorful” composer who used a variety of instruments and who created an exuberant mood.
“It’s like looking at a beautiful picture that has lots of colors,” he said.
Rimsky-Korsakov also has a connection to the first piece of the concert, “Night on Bald Mountain” by Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky. Mussorgsky left the piece unfinished and it was orchestrated by Rimsky-Korsakov after his death.
“People might recognize this piece for being the scariest part of (the 1940 Walt Disney film) ‘Fantasia,’ ” Edelstein said. “Night on Bald Mountain” provides the background music for the witches’ sabbath depicted in the film. “I remember as a kid covering my (eyes) when that part came on,” Edelstein added.
The middle piece tying the concert together will bring the Wild West to Williamsport with “Suite from Billy the Kid,” by Aaron Copland.
“This piece is one of the three most famous ballets that Aaron Copland wrote … the three of them are based on American folk stories,” Edelstein said.
The songs will be acompanied by dance as three students from Saint John’s School of the Arts dance ensemble will perform. Sara Scheiderich, 17, Elivia Nocket, 17, and Ethan Alexander, 14, will perform dances led by Theresa Kendall, choreographer. The collaboration with local dancers is an important aspect of the show, Edelstein said, because visual touches make the performance more enjoyable and memorable for the audience.
“I never program a piece I’m not passionate about,” he said; but he also wants the audience to love each piece as much as he does.
“We do this for the audience,” he said. “It’s absolutely our job, the musicians, to make the music in a way that we can inspire, that we can reach the hearts of the people, that we can show that this music should be performed and should be heard.”
“Fantastic Tales” will begin at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 11 at the Community Arts Center. Tickets are available at the CAC box office and by calling 570-326-2424 or visiting www.caclive.com.