The Wichita Symphony Orchestra has put together a program featuring works by magnificent composers from Russia, Finland and Denmark. International virtuoso violinist Jennifer Frautschi joins the symphony Oct. 27 and 28 to perform Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s popular Violin Concerto.
The symphony’s music director and conductor, Daniel Hege, has pulled in works that go well together yet have a distinctive flavor.
Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto is bookended by Carl Nielsen’s Overture to “Maskarade” and Jean Sibelius’ Second Symphony. Although Sibelius is better known, Nielsen is to Denmark what Sibelius is to Finland: the country’s most famous composer.
Nielsen premiered the comic opera “Maskarade” in Copenhagen in 1906.
“This is a piece that’s filled with optimism,” Hege said. “ ‘Maskarade’ was really about people needing to masquerade themselves away from the feelings of the monotony of life to something that was much more exciting.”
After this five-minute opening number, the orchestra will welcome world-renowned violinist Frautschi, who trained at the New England Conservatory of Music. She will perform the Violin Concerto on a 1722 Antonio Stradivarius violin made at the end of his golden period. Russian-born Tchaikovsky composed this extremely difficult and beautiful work in the late 1870s.
“My instrument allows me to do whatever I want,” Frautschi said. “The only thing that stops me is my own limitation and imagination. It will allow me to do anything I imagine.”
Frautschi calls Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto a warhorse, saying the piece is popular with both the audience and the performers.
“It’s a titan in the violin repertoire,” Hege agreed. “Some of the most beloved melodies that Tchaikovsky ever wrote are in this piece.”
Hege said he is thrilled to have Frautschi performing this technically demanding work.
“You have to be so incredibly able,” he said. “You have to be a great artist to turn those technical difficulties into beautiful music.”
Frautschi said one needs stamina to play this concerto, but it’s a lot of fun to play.
“It’s very romantic, but with gorgeous tunes,” she said. “He (Tchaikovsky) was a master of melody.”
Frautschi notes that this is one of the few pieces where she feels elated while playing.
After music from Russia, the audience heads off to Finland with the music of a staunch admirer of Tchaikovsky, Sibelius. The Second Symphony, like the other two works of the performance, is one of this composer’s most popular works.
“Finland found their identity in the arts,” Hege explained. “Sibelius wrote right at the peak time of nationalism for the Finnish people.” The work was written in 1901 during the time when Finland thought the Soviet Union was overbearing.
Because Finland thought it was under the thumb of Russia, Hege said, the Finnish people viewed Sibelius as a nationalistic composer.
“People can expect lush, rich, beautiful melodies and wonderful brass fanfares,” he said. “It ends with this stately and noble theme and conclusion. It’s a great life-affirming work.”
Hege said he enjoys the way each piece compliments the next one. He said you don’t have to be a musician to enjoy the symphony.
“It can be an incredibly moving experience for someone who has no training in classical music,” Hege said. “People can hear things in the music that they can interpret in their own life.”