Wichita Symphony Orchestra to welcome guest cellist, conductor

01/12/2014 12:00 AM

08/08/2014 10:34 AM

A renowned guest conductor will lead the Wichita Symphony Orchestra with compelling works from France and Argentina. Award-winning cellist Julian Schwarz will join Maximiano Valdes, principal conductor and music director of the Puerto Rico Symphony, on stage.

“These are great guest artists that will work wonderfully with the Wichita Symphony Orchestra,” said Daniel Hege, the company’s music director and conductor.

Hege has worked with both Valdes and Schwarz. Before his 2008 Puerto Rican appointment, Chilean-born Valdes served in symphonies in Spain, Chile, Venice and Buffalo. He also has guest-conducted worldwide, including at major symphonies in Seattle, Dallas, France and Germany.

“We are fortunate to get a man of his stature,” Hege said. “I thought the Wichita audience would enjoy what he has to say.”

Hege and Valdes decided on the pieces for this performance together. The Symphony in D Minor by Cesar Franck (1822-1890) quickly became the pillar for the performance.

“It’s one of those core symphony works,” Hege said. “He uses themes in a cyclic way.”

Because he transforms these themes so thoroughly, Hege said, it makes it a highly original and melodic piece.

Franck, who was born in Liege, now a part of Belgium, did not write this composition until late in life, after he became a French national and a professor in Paris.

Because of the symphony’s upward movement of notes, Hege said, one gets the feeling the work is asking a question. This tightly woven symphony is both exciting and tranquil.

Like Franck, Camille Saint-Saens (1835-1921) played the piano at an early age. Both composers also were accomplished organists.

Schwarz, 22, will perform Saint-Saens’ Cello Concerto No. 1. He performed this same concerto when he was 11 with the Seattle Symphony.

“To this day, it remains my favorite,” Schwarz said. “It’s very nice to come back to it.”

Although Schwarz has performed this cello concerto many times, he always finds new ways to rework it.

“It’s very organic,” he said. “The cello comes in with a solo right away. Then I’m off to the races. You never get bored.”

Because the cello has such a large range, Saint-Saens was able to use the instrument’s versatility.

“It shows off the virtuosity of the cellist. It is a superb concerto,” Hege said. “It has so many beautiful themes. There are no seams anywhere.”

Schwarz won the Schoenfeld International String competition in Hong Kong in August. As he did in Hong Kong, he will bring his 18th-century cello to Wichita. The instrument, which was crafted in Belgium in 1790, has a thin cherry finish and a dark tone.

“Schwarz plays with such sweet, gorgeous sound. There’s a kind of poetry to his sound,” Hege said. “He’s a super talent.”

Schwarz has performed as soloist for many symphonies. He lives in New York City, where he is completing his final year at Juilliard School.

Hege and Valdes decided to balance the two French compositions with “Pampeana No. 3” from Argentinean composer Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983). This 22-minute piece has three movements.

Ginastera explored how the prairie in Argentina transformed throughout the day.

“There are all kinds of different moods he got from watching the prairie,” Hege said. “He goes from melancholy to euphoria. It’s a nice counterbalance and contrast to the other pieces.”

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