LSO concert to feature “awe-inspiring” pieces

Kristi Ruff

The Lawrence Symphony Orchestra is performing in the chapel this Friday, May 15. The orchestra has been working very diligently on multiple works, but for this concert, the orchestra will limit its performance to Bruckner’s “Symphony No. 4 in E-flat Major,” nicknamed “Romantic,” as well as the famous “Piano Concerto for Left Hand” by Ravel. The Concerto will feature one of the winners of this year’s concerto competition, Daniel Schenk, as a soloist with the orchestra.
Now, one might ask if the program does not seem a little short, with only two pieces; however, Bruckner’s symphony alone is approximately 70 minutes long. While the “Romantic” will be a little lengthy, it will not be unbearably so, and is sure to be fantastic. The “Left Hand Concerto” is around 20 minutes long, so the concert will not be any shorter than an average performance. Yet, despite its typical length, the concert will be anything but ordinary.
“Symphony No. 4” is one of Bruckner’s most popular and well-known pieces. It premiered in Vienna in 1881 and was dedicated to Prince Konstantin of Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst. Before the performance, the composer attended a rehearsal, and after an exceedingly successful run, pressed a coin into the rather aristocratic conductor’s hand, and told him to go buy himself a beer. It is this good-natured na’veté that shows through in Bruckner’s music and that makes the piece so interesting.
“Symphony No. 4” is affectionately known as “Romantic,” but this does not refer to the modern concept of romantic love. Rather, the nickname refers to medieval romances, like those portrayed in some of Wagner’s famous operas.
“The piece is long. It’s amazing and beautiful, but it is long,” said violist Sarah Vosper. “It takes a lot of concentration and focus not only to perform, but also to absorb the intricacies of the piece over such a broad amount of time,” said another musician.
Ravel’s “Concerto for Left Hand” is also popular. It was commissioned by the Austrian pianist Paul Wittgenstein after he lost his right arm during World War I. He premiered the piece with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, and ever since, the piece has been a challenge for many pianists.
The concerto is rather unique in its structure – it will begin with the typical concerto opening by the symphony, followed by the pianist, but untraditionally, it opens with a dramatic cadenza to introduce the soloist. The piece is also very intricate in its ambiguity between duple and triple meters.
Daniel Schenk was one of the winners of the LSO Concerto Competition that was held back in November; he will be performing this piece Friday night. He also won second prize in the Concord Chamber Orchestra Concerto Competition in Milwaukee in December.
The piece is obviously quite interesting, and its performance will be “awe-inspiring,” said one of the string players during a rehearsal, “an entire concerto played only with your left hand? I mean, come on!”
Friday’s performance is sure to be a fascinating treat, so make plans to come and be wowed by the talented musicians in the LSO!