Story last updated at 2/4/2009 - 12:52 pm
JUNEAU - Dmitri Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony is one of the top two or three masterworks of the 20th century, said Maestro Kyle Wiley Pickett, music director of the Juneau Symphony orchestra.
"This is kind of like a Beethoven (Ninth Symphony) project for the symphony," Pickett said. It's a really challenging and difficult symphony."
The Juneau Symphony will perform their winter concert, "Revolutionary Russian," Feb. 7 and 8 at the Juneau Douglas High School auditorium. The concerts will feature Shostakovich's controversial "Symphony No. 5" as well as high school soloist Franz Felkl playing Felix Mendelssohn's "Violin Concerto in E Minor."
The program also includes Galanta Dances by Hungarian composer Zoltan Kodaly, which will be conducted by William Todd Hunt, the symphony's new resident conductor.
"It's a great little suite of folk dances," Pickett said. "It's really fun, really splashy."
The orchestra has wanted to perform Shostakovich's Fifth for some time, Pickett said, though it is not an easy one to prepare - either technically or emotionally.
"Technically it's a pretty difficult piece," Pickett said. "It's long and demanding on the players. It's also an emotional tour for the players. The piece really taps into some very deep and primal human emotions,"
Shostakovich composed the symphony in 1937 after being threatened by Joseph Stalin for his controversial opera "Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk."
"Shostakovich was in grave danger of being sent into Siberia or exiled by Stalin when he wrote this," Pickett said. "We also have to convey this very powerful imagery and emotional content as well."
In response to what was essentially a death threat, Shostavoich carefully composed his Fifth Symphony to maintain his artistic standards without upsetting the Soviet party. He was successful on both accounts.
"I really want to urge people to come and hear this piece," Pickett said. "I tend to think everything is worth hearing live, but there are some (pieces) that are just extraordinary when heard live - (and) Shostakovich Five is one of them."
In addition to the opportunity to hear Shostakovich's Fifth performed, concert-goers will also hear one of Juneau most talented young musicians, Franz Felkl, perform Mendelssohn's "Violin Concerto in E Minor."
Felkl, a senior of JDHS, won the symphony's 2008 Youth Concerto Competition. This is his third solo performance with the Juneau Symphony.
"He is just playing beautifully," Pickett said. "I'm proud to say he's kind of grown up with the symphony. It seems like it's been forever that he's been playing with us."
Pickett hopes audiences will turn out to hear Felkl perform before he leaves for college in the fall.
"He is playing with such a level of maturity and outstanding technique," Pickett said. "He doesn't sound like a high school kid - and I don't (just) mean he can play all the notes. (Felkl) is musically involved in the performance. He understands the piece and he is confident. He sounds like a fully fledged artist."
For the first time, the Symphony is offering a pay-as-you-can concert on Sunday, Feb. 8. Pickett said he hopes to draw people who ordinarily wouldn't come to a concert and encourage avid concert-goers to come to both performances.
"This is a pretty monumental concert we're putting on right now," Pickett said.
The winter concert will be performed Saturday, Feb, 7 at 8 p,m. and Sunday, Feb. 8 at 3 p.m in the JDHSl auditorium. Conductor Kyle Wiley Pickett will give "Concert Conversation" lectures one hour before each performance, discussing the history behind "Shostakovich Symphony No. 5" and Mendelssohn Violin Concerto.
Advance tickets are available at Hearthside Books, The Juneau Arts and Culture Center, the Symphony office and www.juneausymphony.org. Tickets are also available at the door for $2 extra.
Tickets for the Saturday performance are $20 for general admission, $15 for students and seniors. The Sunday performance is pay-as-you-can. Both performances are sponsored by K3 Public Radio and UAS.
Pickett has invited his friend Dr. Dwayne Corbin, Assistant Professor of Instrumental Music at Simpson University in Redding, California, to Juneau to work with the symphony's percussion session and give a concert and master class to any interested community members.
Corbin will perform a dynamic percussion concert on Wednesday, Feb. 4 at 8pm at the UAS Egan Lecture Hall. Admission is free
The concert of solo music for xylophone and assorted percussion instruments including several flower pots, is subtitled "Music for Thinking and Grooving." Dr. Corbin will perform a variety of music: everything from 1920s rag-time solos to compositions for electronics and percussion to philosophical works that seek to comment on modern and ancient music.
Corbin will then offer a free percussion master class Feb. 7 from 2-4 p.m in the JDHS auditorium. Dr. Corbin will demonstrate and instruct participants in techniques for playing all manner of percussion instruments from bass drums to xylophones. The class open to the public. Anyone interested in playing percussion music is welcome to attend. All ages welcome. No advance registration is necessary and instruments and mallets will be provided.
For more information on any of the performances, visit www.juneausymphony.org or call 586-4676.
Katie Spielberger may be reached at email@example.com