Fox Valley Symphony Readies for New Season

October 8, 2013

Cheryl Anderson

Post Crescent

A musical celebration of Italy, a Broadway megastar and the return of a hometown favorite are some of the highlights of the Fox Valley Symphony’s 2013-14 concert season.

First up is “Festa Italiana!” a lighthearted musical tribute to Italy at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center in downtown Appleton.

Featured pieces include “Roman Carnival Overture” by Hector Berlioz and “Symphony No. 4 in A Major, ‘Italian’” by Felix Mendelssohn.

“Berlioz was known for his orchestration and how he used the instruments in the orchestra in a very colorful way,” music director and conductor Brian Groner said. “He expanded the boundaries of the individual instruments technique as he did so, and this overture shows that in many ways.”

The Mendelssohn piece was written after the prodigy traveled to Italy. The first movement is vibrant and energetic, the second is soulful, and the finale is a saltarella, which is a dance.

“The orchestra has never presented this mainstay of orchestral literature,” Groner said.

Pianist Jodie De Salvo of Naples, Fla., also joins the symphony for Samuel Barber’s “Concerto for Piano and Orchestra.”

Barber was awarded his second Pulitzer Prize for the “Concerto for Piano and Orchestra,” composed in 1962 for the Gala Opening Concert of Lincoln Center and performed by the Boston Symphony. The piece was written with pianist John Browning in mind. It became his signature piece.

De Salvo was friends with Browning of Sister Bay, who before his death in 2003 gifted De Salvo with the original score.

“It’s a really exciting piece of music that is probably, at this point of time, not played as often as it used to be when John Browning was alive,” De Salvo said. “But it is a really exciting piece. The second movement is a glorious, beautiful, slow movement that is very tonal. And the last movement is absolutely crazy and in 5/8 time, which for musicians is a very syncopated, unusual sounding rhythm and just really exciting. It’s a tremendous, monumental work.”

A full season ahead

The remaining symphony schedule, executive director Rosie Cannizzo said, is a combination of planning and serendipity. Take the Nov. 1 performance by two-time Tony-Award winning actress Patti LuPone.

“She was looking for an orchestra to sort of do a test run before she goes to Carnegie Hall with the show the following week,” Cannizzo said. “She just happened to have this Friday night available. We’re thrilled that she’s going to be here. She is such a legend.”

She’s also known as a wonderfully demanding soloist, Groner said. “That’s good.”

“Celebrating Women Composers” is slated for Jan. 25, and is a collaboration with the Women’s Fund for the Fox Valley Region. Composing and performing were not traditionally seen as appropriate activities for women, and many talented women never were encouraged. It’s taken a long time for music by women composers to take its rightful place in a standard repertoire for symphony orchestra, Groner said.

“We want to get people thinking about the role that women have played in classical music and the role women play in the classical arts,” Cannizzo said. “We’re hoping to spend one to two weeks around that concert with special events.”

Another highlight is an appearance by Cory Chisel and the Wandering Sons, who will join the hometown orchestra for the first time. It will give Chisel’s fans a chance to hear his songs given a symphonic treatment.

The Chisel concert also includes “The Art of Compassion,” the Fox Valley’s second-ever Compassion Project. Students from the Appleton high schools will create works of art inspired and informed by the work of local charities, which will be auctioned prior to the concert. Funds raised will go to charities designated by the students. Chisel was involved with the first Compassion Project event in 2011.

“It gives us an opportunity to not just provide a musical offering to the community, but also to bring some deeper conversations on other things into the mix,” Cannizzo said.

Doing a show with an orchestra used to be something a pop and rock artist did merely to extend their livelihood, Groner said. “But now, it’s the opposite. It’s a rite of passage. If you can do a symphony show, you’ve added stature.”

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