Winter Concert - Young People's Symphony Orchestra
The Young People's Symphony Orchestra (YPSO) 2013 Winter Concert will feature special guests violinist Florin Parvulescu and cellist Amos Yang of the San Francisco Symphony, music director/conductor David Ramadanoff, and 95 young orchestra musicians in a program of Brahms' Double Concerto in A minor for Violin, Cello, and Orchestra and Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4 in F minor.
Johannes Brahms wrote the Double Concerto as a kind of musical reconciliation to mend broken fences he'd created with his long-time friend and colleague, famed virtuoso violinist Joseph Joachim. They had a falling out after Brahms testified in favor of Joachim's wife during their divorce proceedings. Completed in 1887, the three-movement work is the last composition Brahms wrote for orchestra. Its writing is dramatic and provides virtuosic challenges aplenty for violin and cello while giving the orchestra musical mountains to climb, too.
Parvulescu appeared in May 2012 with the orchestra as soloist in Max Bruch's Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor and found it a pleasure to play with its teenage musicians. "I particularly enjoyed their energy and ability to adjust and learn quickly," he says. Inspired by their first collaboration, Ramadanoff and Parvulescu wanted to play together again and when Parvulescu suggested Brahms' Double Concerto, Ramadanoff readily agreed because he thought it would be a wonderful piece for the orchestra to play. "One of the complaints about all of Brahms' concerti are they're too symphonic. I like that quality [in the Double Concerto]. It's the work's strength. It's a real partnership between the orchestra and the soloists," says Ramadanoff.
Brahms writes expertly for the violin and cello and effortlessly passes phrases from one instrument to another, says Parvulescu. "It also has one of the more difficult orchestral parts, thickly scored at times and requiring virtuosic playing by the strings," he says.
Yang and Parvulescu played the Double Concerto together previously with the Xiamen Philharmonic in Xiamen, China. Yang says it's a piece that is quite awkward for the cello at times since it leaps around in a manner more suited for a piano or uses registers that are difficult to project. Yang has played it two other times and is grateful to be able to refine his approach to it with his San Francisco Symphony colleague. "Florin and I are doing some things differently this time around and that is good for our growing interpretation of the piece," says Yang.
Florin Parvulescu joined the San Francisco Symphony in 1998. From 1996 to 1998, he was a member of the St. Louis Symphony. As a chamber musician, Parvulescu has appeared in recital series at the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore, the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, Aspen Music Festival, and Berkeley Chamber Music Series. The San Francisco Chronicle praised Mr. Parvulescu's playing for its "gleaming tone and pyrotechnics." Parvulescu was born in 1971 in Bucharest, Romania. He started playing the violin at the age of six at the Georges Enescu music school. In 1978 he attended the Juilliard School Pre-College division and in 1989 he went on to study at the Peabody Conservatory of Music, where he earned Bachelors and Artist Diploma degrees.
Amos Yang is the Assistant Principal cellist for the San Francisco Symphony. He has performed as a soloist and chamber musician throughout the U.S., the Far East and Europe, including performances at the Aspen Music Festival, the American Academy in Rome, Wigmore Hall and Alice Tully Hall. Yang holds bachelor's and master's degrees from the Juilliard School of Music. Before joining the San Francisco Symphony, Yang was a member of the Seattle Symphony. Born and raised in San Francisco, he is a graduate of Lowell High School and was a member of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra from 1981-86.
The other work on the program will be Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4 in F minor. The composer wrote his Symphony No. 4 at a time of great emotional upheaval in his life in 1877-78 when he got married and then quickly separated from his wife, all the while grappling with his homosexuality and his fear of its public exposure. "It's a very personal statement. The opening fanfare tells you how personal this symphony is going to be. It's a very powerful and sad first movement," says Ramadanoff.
There is a monumental, larger-than-life breadth to this four-movement symphony. It is similar to an epic, where all essential questions of human existence are brought forth and examined with a life-or-death intensity.
Ramadanoff says the symphony is very challenging and rewarding for everyone in the orchestra to play. "I've conducted Tchaikovsky's Symphonies Nos. 5 and 6, but I've never done this symphony with YPSO before, but this year I felt they were ready," he says.
Tchaikovsky was a man of extreme emotions and his music is music of extreme emotions. "It's a gift to us. It gives us permission to feel those emotions. He had a very difficult emotional life: extreme happiness and extreme torture. Almost nothing in the middle, and that's what we get in his music," says Ramadanoff.
Celebrating his 24th season as Music Director/Conductor, David Ramadanoff conducts 95 YPSO musicians who range in age from 12 to 21 and hail from 29 Bay Area cities in six counties. A former Associate Conductor of the San Francisco Symphony, Ramadanoff studied at the Cleveland Institute of Music, Temple University, and at the Juilliard School in New York City. In addition to YPSO, he is also the conductor of the Vallejo Symphony and the Master Sinfonia Chamber Orchestra.
Founded in Berkeley in 1936, YPSO is the oldest youth orchestra in California and the second oldest in the nation. Violinist and conductor Jessica Marcelli founded YSPO at the suggestion of Clarabelle Bell, an amateur harpist and Berkeley resident, who got the idea after hearing a youth orchestra on a trip to Portland, Oregon.
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