WSO to end season with ‘Gerardo and Roberto Meet Again’

After winning the prestigious Cleveland International Piano Competition back in 2001, pianist Roberto Plano was offered an opportunity to perform with the Williamsport Symphony Orchestra as a part of his prize. By all accounts, the program provided a great experience for Plano, the WSO and symphonygoers who turned out for the performance.

Eighteen years later, Plano is set to once again join the WSO, this time for a show entitled “Gerardo and Roberto Meet Again,” which will be held at 7:30 p.m. May 14 at the Community Arts Center, 220 West Fourth St. The performance, which will feature compositions from Smetana, Grieg and Stravinsky, will mark the final show of the WSO’s 2018-19 season.

“We normally finish with a big bang, and that will happen again this season,” said Gerardo Edelstein, WSO conductor. “We are performing three fabulous pieces. It will be exciting.”

Starting off the program will be “The Moldau,” which is a symphonic poem composed by Bedrich Smetana that served as the second of six movements in his suite, “Ma vlast.” The composition is widely recognized as the most popular movement of Smetana’s most enduring work. In it, the composer uses tone painting to provide a description of a great Bohemian river, the Moldau (otherwise known as the Vltava).

“I think the fact that the first piece is problematic, meaning it is based on something, is exciting. It is more nature-based because it is all about this river and all the landscapes,” Edelstein said. “We have areas that are quieter, but we also have the river and some rapids, and the music gets more stormy.

“The depiction of the river going through different landscapes and stages is very exciting,” he added. “Just to hear how a composer views and imagines with music, those different stages in the river and the landscapes.”

Following that performance, Plano will make his appearance with the symphony, when he joins the WSO to play Edvard Grieg’s “Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16,” which was written by the composer in 1868, when he was only 24 years old. The concerto is the only one Grieg ever finished, and it evokes traditional Norwegian folk melodies. The tune is a favorite for many lovers of romantic music.

“There are thousands of piano concertos. This particular one by Grieg is one that we have not done for a really long time,” Edelstein said. “It is a very famous one, and it is very beautiful.”

Edelstein said Grieg’s concerto is the perfect piece for Plano to take on during his reunion with the WSO, and that he couldn’t be more excited to once again be joining forces with the accomplished musician.

“Roberto is a fantastic pianist. I just love working with him,” Edelstein said. “He has played in orchestras all over the world, in places like Germany and Italy.

“When he was showcased here before, the audience loved him,” added Edelstein. “I thought that bringing him back several years later would be great.”

After Plano finishes with the concerto, the second half of the WSO’s program will be dedicated to Igor Stravinsky’s ballet piece “The Firebird.” This work, which was partially featured in the Disney movie “Fantasia 2000,” will be especially challenging for the symphony, as it will require WSO members to tell a story with nothing but their instruments.

“With music theater and opera, there are words and they can relate to the text, so telling a story is much easier,” Edelstein said. “When there is only music, it can become more complicated because we have to express everything with our music and send a message to the audience.

“You have to be able to show that this is the ‘good guy’ in the story and this is the ‘bad guy’ in the story,” he added. “That is very, very exciting, but on the other hand, it is difficult because we have to communicate just with music and tell the stories just with music.”

Though it will be a tall order, Edelstein is confident that symphony members will bring this tune to life for the audience, citing the high level of skill that each musician in the WSO possesses. He is also thrilled to be able to put his own special touch on the performance.

“We have a fantastic group of musicians that come from all different backgrounds,” he said. “Most of them either are professional musicians or very advanced students.

“Part of my job as conductor is to recreate the music, but also to bring my own ideas into that piece — it is not just performing it exactly the same way as the original composition,” added Edelstein. “It is part of my job to add my own flavor to the music. Otherwise, why would you have dozens of recordings of the same piece? It is because there are different performers and different conductors, and each one brings their own interpretation of the music. Each one has their own approach to the music.”

Now that the WSO’s season is drawing to an end, Edelstein said that he already considers the group’s efforts over the last few months to be a “big success.” Knowing how much work everyone involved has put in, he has been thrilled to see great reactions from the crowds the symphony has played for during its 2018-19 campaign.

“We had a fantastic season,” he said. “I am looking forward to concluding it with this concert, and turning our attention to the future. We have already set the season for next year.”

For more information, visit