Even though its promotion includes pictures of candy canes and its program has some of history’s most-recognizable Christmas music in it, Wichita Symphony Orchestra’s conductor is hesitant to call this weekend’s performances a “holiday concert.”
“For most people, they would think we’re playing ‘Sleigh Ride’ and Christmas pops tunes,” Daniel Hege said. “And we’re not. It does have a holiday and Christmas theme to it, but only because ‘The Nutcracker’ is performed around Christmastime.”
Indeed, in a concert dubbed “Tchaikovsky’s Sweetest Suites,” “Nutcracker” is part of a symphonic double-decker treat that will comprise the second act of the concerts at Century II Concert Hall, featuring the composer’s three ballet scores.
It begins with “The Nutcracker March,” a rousing, three-minute opener, Hege said, followed by excerpts from “Sleeping Beauty.” The “Chinese Dance” segment from “Nutcracker” follows as “kind of a buffer, a palate cleanser,” Hege said. Three movements from “Swan Lake” follow, capped by “Waltz of the Flowers” from “Nutcracker.”
According to program notes from the Wichita Symphony website, “Nutcracker” hasn’t been performed by the orchestra in nearly 30 years.
Hege said he had debated with himself about adding “Nutcracker” to the December program.
“It’s so ubiquitous during that December time,” he said. “People are getting enough of it elsewhere.”
His final thought: “If we don’t even do a nod to ‘The Nutcracker,’ that’s also strange.”
Hege said that as ballet music rather than a symphonic work, “it doesn’t have all of the development and structure that a symphony would have.”
The entirety of the program, Hege said, covers both time – the 16th through 19th centuries – and various sections of the Wichita Symphony.
The concert opens with Gabrieli’s “Brass Canzona,” featuring all of the symphony’s brass players in an antiphonal stage arrangement for a “stereo effect,” Hege said.
That is followed by Corelli’s “Christmas Concerto,” which highlights the string players. A movement instructed by the composer to be played for the Nativity concludes the piece.
Haydn’s “Sinfonia Concertante, Opus 84” concludes the first act, featuring WSO’s principal players – Andrea Banke, oboe; Scott Oakes, bassoon; Leonid Shukaev, cello; and concertmaster John Harrison.
The five movements of the Haydn, Hege said, feature every possible combination of the four players.
It’s an incredibly witty work. You really see the genius of Haydn.
Daniel Hege, conductor
“We don’t play enough music from the baroque period, and this music falls squarely into that time period,” he said. “It’s an incredibly witty work. You really see the genius of Haydn.”
However, “it’s music that everybody knows. They won’t know it by title, but once they hear it they’ll think, ‘I know this,’ ” Hege added.
Hege said he’s proud of the variety in the Wichita Symphony’s holiday-but-not-a-holiday concert.
“It’s really a colorful concert, rich with variety and orchestral color. People are just gonna love it,” he said. “It’s perfect for the holidays.”
‘TCHAIKOVSKY’S SWEETEST SUITES’
When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3; and 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4
Where: Century II Concert Hall, 225 W. Douglas
What: Wichita Symphony concert with a centuries-span of selections, capped by excerpts from all three of Tchaikovsky’s ballet scores
Admission: $20 to $65
Information: Tickets are available at www.wichitasymphony.org, by phone at 316-267-7658 or in person at the symphony box office. Box office hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays