By Dale Gedcke
The Friday and Saturday concerts by the Oak Ridge Philharmonia will feature two of the most enjoyable compositions by Tchaikovsky. Danny Brian will play the exhilarating “Piano Concerto No. 1,” and the orchestra will perform selections from the enchanting “Nutcracker Suite.” For more information, continue to read below.
Danny Brian may be best known locally for serving as organist/pianist for 30 years at Cokesbury United Methodist Church. He has also been the accompanist for the Knoxville Choral Society and Knoxville Chamber Chorale for many years. Brian is an active local artist playing solo recitals and chamber music in the Knoxville area. He has been on the faculty at Knoxville College, and was staff accompanist at the University of Tennessee for several years. Brian won first place in the Mid-South Piano Competition, and has played with many orchestras throughout the Southeast. He began his musical studies at Blair School of music in Nashville, and he received his undergraduate degree in piano performance from Middle Tennessee State University, where he studied with Jerry Perkins. He also studied with David Northington at the University of Tennessee while he worked on his master’s degree.
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) composed his first piano concerto over the winter of 1874-1875. He showed it to the intended pianist, Nikolai Rubinstein, who soundly criticized it. Reacting to that devastating criticism, Tchaikovsky vowed to publish it without changing a note, and that resulted in the 1875 publication by Jurgenson. This version premiered October 25, 1875, in Boston, with Hans von Bülow as the soloist. After the success in the United States, Rubinstein recanted his criticism and became a fervent supporter of the concerto. In the summer of 1879, Tchaikovsky decided to make improvements based on suggestions from several pianists, who had performed the concerto. This resulted in the August 1879 publication of the second edition by Jurgenson. There is some contention regarding whether the third revision was printed before or after Tchaikovsky’s death in 1893, and whether other arrangers contributed to some of the changes in that edition. But that third edition, published by Jurgenson, is the one that is usually performed.
By the early 1900s, the concerto had become a favorite work in every professional pianist’s repertoire. It is best known for its intense opening theme, with a strong interplay between the piano and the orchestra. The first movement constitutes about 60 percent of the entire concerto, and it is somewhat unconventional compared to the traditional concept of concertos. Instead of a single theme with derivative developments, Tchaikovsky adopts melodies from several different folksongs popular in his time and weaves them into a more complex development. There are also numerous long sections where the piano plays without any orchestra accompaniment, and vice versa. The second and third movements each comprise about 20 percent of the total concerto, with the second movement offering a light and wistful interlude between the other two. The third movement introduces two additional themes, with alternations and developments that conclude in a dramatic finish.
Tchaikovsky premiered his ballet, “The Nutcracker,” in December 1892 to a rather cold reception. Fortunately, he had extracted some of its most beautiful music into “The Nutcracker Suite,” which almost immediately became popular for orchestral performances. The ballet never achieved frequent presentation until the late 1960s, primarily in America. Now, it is common to find performances of the ballet and the orchestral suite around the holiday season every winter, notably because the story is centered on Christmas celebrations. This suite contains some of the most varied and enthralling music Tchaikovsky has composed.
To enjoy these compositions, choose either:
- Friday, November 18, at 7:30 p.m. in the Sanctuary of the Cokesbury United Methodist Church (South Campus), one-third mile east of the Pellissippi Parkway on Kingston Pike in West Knoxville; or
- Saturday, November 19, at 2 p.m. in the Sanctuary of the First Baptist Church of Oak Ridge, on the corner of the Oak Ridge Turnpike and LaFayette Drive).
Admission is free. But modest donations at the door to support the orchestra’s routine operating expenses will be appreciated.
The Oak Ridge Philharmonia is a 501(c)3, nonprofit, volunteer organization, performing under the baton of Conductor and Music Director Marcelo Urias. Anyone wishing to regularly participate in the orchestra is encouraged to contact Personnel Manager Cyndi Jeffers at [email protected]. Usually, we can accommodate additional string players, and occasionally there are openings in the brass, woodwind, and percussion sections. The orchestra welcomes experienced musicians of all ages. The Oak Ridge Philharmonia is a rewarding venue for instrumentalists who enjoy playing for an appreciative audience, with music ranging from Baroque through Classical to Contemporary. For more information about the orchestra, visit www.OakRidgePhilharmonia.org.
Dale Gedcke is publicity manager of the Oak Ridge Philharmonia.
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