The Southern Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Dr. Jeff Macomber, will present a concert featuring special guest artist pianist Roger Wright at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 24, in Taylor Performing Arts Center.
The second half of the concert will feature Rachmaninoff’s “Op 30: Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor.” The work has the reputation of being one of the most technically challenging piano concertos in classical music.
Many pianists approach “Rocky 3” with nothing short of fear.
“When we talked about the concert, Roger suggested Piano Concerto No. 3,” Dr. Macomber says. “I was taken aback by that. It is one of those concertos that great pianists embrace and try to learn and some others try to avoid. It’s incredibly difficult for the pianist – and no pushover for the orchestra either.”
Wright, a frequent award winner in international piano competitions, first appeared at Missouri Southern last year for a celebration of the music of George Gershwin. Originally from Texas, he now bases his career out of Los Angeles.
“After last year, we thought it would be nice to make it happen again,” Macomber states. “As far as the 3rd Concerto goes, it is an event whenever someone plays it.”
Prior to intermission, the Southern Symphony Orchestra will present three other symphonic selections that, like the 3rd Concerto, were originally written for the piano.
The first half of the concert will open with “Wedding Day at Troldhaugen,” by 19th century Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg. Grieg composed the piece as a processional for his guests at his family estate (Troldhaugen) on his 25th wedding anniversary.
“Most people don’t know this by name but they’ll know it when they hear it,” Macomber says.
The second number will be “The Alcotts,” by early 20th century New England composer Charles Ives. Ives was an “avocational” composer who spent his professional career in the insurance industry. As an executive and actuary, he structured life-insurance packages for the wealthy and wrote a popular book on investments and inheritance during the World War I era.
“He was a cubist performer,” Macomber says. “He was fond of juxtaposing ideas on top of the other. The original piano piece of ‘The Alcotts’ didn’t even have a time signature. Ives left that up to the performer.”
Arranger John Boyd added a meter during orchestration but the rhythmic pattern remains unusual throughout the work.
“It’s a fascinating piece,” Dr. Macomber says.
The first half of the concert will conclude with “Mother Goose Suite,” by Maurice Ravel.
The 1910 work was originally written as a “piano four hands” – a duet for two people to play on one piano. Ravel, who had no children, wrote the work for a close friend’s two young daughters. He created his musical impression of nursery rhymes.
The Southern Symphony Orchestra consists of a wide variety of musicians, from teenagers to retired people. About 10 percent of the members are Missouri Southern students who participate for credit. All the rest of the performers donate their time and effort.
The April 24 performance is supported by the Vivian León Music Fund, the MSSU Music Department, the MSSU Foundation, the Klassix Society and individual donors who support the Southern Symphony Orchestra.