Violin soloist Daisuke Yamamoto will perform with the Richmond Symphony in Jean Sibelius’ "Violin Concerto in D Minor."
This weekend, along with works by Elgar and Sibelius, the Richmond Symphony will perform the world premiere of a tone poem composed by University of Richmond music professor Benjamin Broening.
Led by the symphony’s music director, Steven Smith, the April 18 and 19 concerts at the Carpenter Theatre will include Broening’s Sea Surface Full of Clouds along with Jean Sibelius’ Violin Concerto in D Minor, featuring soloist Daisuke Yamamoto on violin, and a performance of the British composer Edward Elgar’s famous Enigma Variations.
Of the collaboration with Broening, Smith says, “When I first started as music director — I’m in my fifth year now — I was curious about what kind of composers live locally … it turns out we have a ton of not just composers, but musicians [and others],” Smith says. “I heard some of [Broening’s] music and I thought, ‘This is a really good composer who lives right here and we should be supporting his work.’ ”
Broening says the inspiration for the five-movement piece came from the poem of the same name by Wallace Stevens. “You can think of it as a 20-minute tone poem about the sea,” he says. “Each of the five sections of the poem are images
of the sea … my piece is five movements [that reflect that].” The composition evokes the ebb and flow of the sea, and much like the poem, it begins with a bright and energetic opening and ends with a climax.
Broening’s orchestral, chamber, choral and electroacoustic music has been performed in over 20 countries and around the United States by numerous ensembles including Grammy Award-winners the Da Capo Chamber Players, Charlotte Symphony and Zeitgeist. In addition to composing other commissioned pieces, Broening is also working on his third solo album, What the Light Was Like, comprising solo pieces and chamber music as well as a 20-minute orchestra piece.
The concert begins at 8 p.m. on April 18 and 3 p.m. on April 19. Tickets are $10 and up and can be purchased at richmondsymphony.com or by calling (800) 514-3849.
Also this weekend, the Richmond Symphony Youth Orchestra Program will present its spring concert on April 19 at 7 p.m. A mix of students from schools around the Richmond region (and a few from beyond), the concert will highlight the top young musicians from grades 2 through 12 in four ensembles ranging from beginner to advanced.
“The students play a lot of arrangements of student pieces that the professional orchestra might play,” says Aimee Halbruner, director of education and community engagement. The students practice year-round every Tuesday after school and have been preparing for the concert since their winter performance in early December. “What parents tell us is that they are glad the students get to really play at a high level and [the students] want to do really well and work really hard,” Halbruner says. “The students are all coming together in the youth orchestra at a higher level which is a little bit more difficult than the average school program.” The arrangements performed will include anything from classic pieces to more contemporary such as an arrangement of the music from the Disney film, Pirates of the Caribbean. 184 student musicians will perform including four soloists (two violinists and two cellists). The concert will be held at the Carpenter Theatre and is free, with no ticket required. “It’s a great opportunity for young students to be introduced to symphonic music, because there’s nothing better than kids playing for kids,” Halbruner says. “They can really picture themselves up there, because there are kids who look just like them.”
This week, the symphony also announced that the primary conductor of the Richmond Symphony Youth Orchestra, Associate Conductor Keitaro Harada has accepted a new position, which he’ll begin this fall. After a year with the Richmond Symphony, Harada has been named the new associate conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra — a larger, full orchestra with a longer season. Harada will continue to assist the RSO throughout the end of the 2016 season and it is unconfirmed if he will make guest appearances in Richmond after that time.
“It’s possible that we may ask him to come back and do something else,” Smith says. “We’d all love to keep it in mind, but there’s nothing definite at this point.” Smith says he is happy about Harada’s new position, calling it a fantastic opportunity.
“I’m honestly not terribly surprised that Kei has moved on, he’s obviously a very talented conductor,” Smith says. “He’s been a great colleague and a great asset to our community as well as our organization.” Since joining the RSO, Harada has conducted various concerts such as the Genworth Symphony Pops and Union Bank and Trust LolliPops Series. “We are very happy for him and look forward to seeing what’s next,” Smith says.