Midcoast Symphony Orchestra will present “Romantic Russians” on March 15 and 16, with pianist Charles Floyd and guest conductor Yoichi Udagawa

LEWISTON — The Midcoast Symphony Orchestra will perform the third concert series of their 2013-2014 season under returning guest conductor Yoichi Udagawa. The concerts will feature pianist Charles Floyd performing Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No.2 in C Minor, Opus 18. The orchestra will also perform Glinka’s Overture to Russlan and Ludmilla, and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 in E Minor, Op. 64.

Maestro Udagawa is a favorite guest conductor of the orchestra, and his program of romantic Russians features some of the most beautiful and melodic music of the era. Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 is one of the composer’s more well-known works; it was particularly popular in WWII because of its musical message of victory through strife. Soloist Floyd is a particularly accomplished pianist who will bring the gorgeous melodies of the Rachmaninov concerto to life.

Symphony performances will be at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 15, at the Franco Center, and at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, March 16, at the Orion Performing Arts Center in Topsham. Tickets are $20 and available at www.midcoastsymphony.org/, also Gulf of Maine Books in Brunswick, Now You’re Cooking in Bath, or at the concert hall prior to the performance. For additional information, call 207-846-5378. Those 18 and younger admitted free.

More about Guest Conductor Yoichi Udagawa

“Udagawa took the orchestra on an astonishing and fearless musical flight…” wrote one reviewer about the dynamic and energetic conductor, Yoichi Udagawa. His performances have been hailed as “powerful and emotionally evocative,” and his relaxed manner and ability to speak from the podium have helped new audiences as well as enthusiasts gain a greater appreciation for symphonic music.

Music Director and Conductor of the Cape Ann Symphony Orchestra, the Melrose Symphony Orchestra, and the Quincy Symphony Orchestra, Mr. Udagawa is also on the faculty of the Boston Conservatory, where he teaches conducting. In addition, he is a cover conductor at the Boston Pops Orchestra. Frequently invited to guest conduct with Midcoast Symphony, Mr. Udagawa is a favorite of the Symphony’s audiences.

Mr. Udagawa was born in Tokyo, Japan in 1964. His family immigrated to the United States soon thereafter. He began playing the violin at age four and made his conducting debut at the age of fifteen. After receiving a music degree from the University of Texas at Austin, he continued advanced studies in conducting with Gunther Schuller, Seiji Ozawa, Morihiro Okabe, and Henry Charles Smith. A fan of many different styles of music, Mr. Udagawa also enjoys performing gospel music in addition to his conducting activities. He is an accomplished violinist and an avid fan of exercise and yoga.

More about soloist Charles Floyd

Conductor, pianist, and composer Charles Floyd began studying piano at age four, gave his first solo recital at age nine, and by age twenty had been heard in solo recital, chamber music and concerto performances throughout the United States and Spain. He has been the recipient of numerous awards and grants, including the Aspen School of Music Fellowship, Oberlin Conservatory’s Rudolf Serkin Award, and the National Chopin Competition of New York’s Kosciuszko Foundation.

As a conductor, Floyd has been heard in concert with more than 500 orchestras since 1991. During the 2003-04 concert season, Floyd appeared with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and made his debut with the Brooklyn Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall in July 2004. During 2006-2007, he debuted with the Edmonton Symphony (Alberta, Canada) and the Holland Symfonia (Haarlem and Amsterdam, The Netherlands). Floyd is an annual guest conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra. Since 1993, his performances have included Gospel Night at Pops at Boston’s Symphony Hall, a PBS telecast of Evening at Pops, featuring Patti LaBelle and Edwin Hawkins in a program of gospel music, and critically acclaimed performances as pianist of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue with conductor Keith Lockhart. In 1998 he was music director for the nationally broadcast PBS holiday special, A Cathedral Christmas, with Metropolitan Opera mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves at The National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

Floyd’s eleven-year partnership with singer Natalie Cole included such projects as the multiple Grammy Award-winning tribute to Nat King Cole entitled Unforgettable, With Love, the Emmy Award-winning PBS Great Performances concert video of the same title, as well as the Grammy-winning releases Take a Look and Stardust.

His compositions range from chamber music to large orchestral and vocal works. A tribute to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, One Man’s Dream for narrator and orchestra was commissioned and premiered by the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra in 2001. His Four Spirituals for soprano and orchestra was premiered at Boston’s Symphony Hall with the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra in 1995, and his oratorio Hosanna for gospel chorus and orchestra premiered there in 2000. In July, 2005 he joined the small team of conductors performing Howard Shore’s The Lord Of The Rings Symphony at the request of the Oscar-winning film composer.

Overture to Russlan and Ludmilla

Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka

Mikhail Glinka was the scion of minor Russian nobility, educated in European culture, but also exposed as a child to Russian peasant music and stories. Russlan and Ludmilla was Glinka’s second opera. Like Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, it was based on a poem by Alexander Pushkin. The story is a fairy tale, recounting the hero Russlan’s attempts to rescue his fiancé Ludmilla from the grasp of the evil sorcerer Chernomor. The Overture includes none of the Russian-style ballad tunes or the advanced chromatic harmonies of the music of the opera; rather, it is a wonderful example of the Italian operatic style sweeping Russia at this time.

Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18

Sergei Rachmaninoff

Rachmaninoff wrote this work at his beloved summer estate of Ivanovka in 1900. The concerto received a good reception at its first performance in 1901 and remains one of his most enduringly popular works.

The primary texture for most of the work is that someone, whether soloist or a section of the orchestra, has the tune, which usually moves at a moderate pace, and the others weave decorative fantasies—which usually move faster than the tune—around it. These decorative fantasies give all the tunes a characteristic sense of depth and richness.

There are three movements, each with its own distinctive material, but the work as a whole is held together in part by striking similarities among the main melodies. For example, the dark tune in the strings, which marks the first entrance of the orchestra, begins by going back and forth between two notes. This is exactly the motion that happens in the perky march tune that begins the last movement, and almost all the tunes in the work have at least one moment where there is this kind of two-note oscillation.

Symphony No. 5 in E Minor, Op. 64

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

The Fifth Symphony was written in 1888. It has no explicit program, but it does seem to move through an emotionally and narratively coherent set of moods, so listeners can attach a variety of particular stories to it without betraying its apparently essential character.

In some ways like Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony grows out of a single motto starting with three repeated notes that are heard at the very beginning of the piece and in every movement thereafter. As Beethoven does in his Fifth Symphony, Tchaikovsky interrupts the gorgeous tunes of his second movement with more martial music; such interruptions remind us loudly and clearly of the motto. Tchaikovsky’s graceful third-movement is a waltz, and even the slightly gloomy reminder of the motto in the clarinet right at the end doesn’t dispel its charm. Tchaikovsky’s splendidly exciting and various finale, with its motto-centered “bookends,” very satisfactorily completes the journey started by those three repeated notes.

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