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Ann Miller - photo courtesy Mariposa Symphony Orchestra

Mariposa Symphony Orchestra Presents Tchaikovsky: Rare and Well Done

MARIPOSA – The Mariposa Symphony Orchestra’s (MSO) 2019 spring concerts will exclusively feature the music of Tchaikovsky, ranging from very rare works to the most beloved violin concerto ever written.

The concerts feature renowned guest solo violinist Dr. Ann Miller in the concerto during two performances – one in Mariposa on Saturday, Apr. 6, and a second in Yosemite National Park on Sunday, Apr. 7.

For these spring concerts, MSO Founder/Conductor Les Marsden has programmed music by Russia’s most famous composer spanning nearly the entirety of his composing career. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s familiar Romeo and Juliet Overture will open the program, but in its rarely-heard first version from 1869.

“Though Tchaikovsky radically revised the piece in 1870 and again in 1880, that first inspiration of 1869 is pretty remarkable,” says Marsden. “The famous love themes, the fight music – it’s all there, but utilized differently. Different opening, different ending, different development sections – it makes for a fascinating experience.”

The program will also feature one of the composer’s earliest orchestral successes – the 1866 Overture on the Danish National Hymn – written when he was only 26 years old.

Composed on commission to commemorate the marriage of Russia’s Tsar-in-waiting Alexander II to Denmark’s Princess Dagmar, this rare piece will sound curiously familiar to listeners. According to Marsden, “there’s a reason for that. Tchaikovsky cleverly quotes not only that Danish tune but also God Save the Tsar, interweaving the two together.

“Fifteen years later in 1881, when the by-now seasoned composer was writing his 1812 Overture, he re-visited the Danish Overture borrowing from it both in content and style.” As late as 1892, the year before his death, Tchaikovsky proclaimed the rare Danish Overture to be far better music than 1812, a piece known the world over today.

The prelude to Tchaikovsky’s penultimate opera The Queen of Spades (1890) shows the master at the height of his mature powers. The program will close with the 1878 Violin Concerto in D, rejected by violinists for years as too difficult to ever be played. The piece was composed in a flurry of inspiration over a very brief window of time, with the famed Canzonetta second movement composed in only one day.

Championed by 30-year-old virtuoso violinist Adolf Brodsky and finally premiered by him in Vienna in 1881, the piece caused a sensation, instantly establishing itself as a remarkable crowd pleaser, though at that time, Vienna’s most powerful critic Eduard Hanslick scorned the piece as the “…brutal and wretched jollity of a Russian holiday. We see plainly the savage, vulgar faces; we hear curses; we smell vodka.” He claimed it was music which forced its violinist to “tear the instrument to bits, to beat the violin black and blue” and music which ultimately “stinks to the ear.”

Hanslick also panned the music of Verdi, Liszt, Wagner and Bruckner, and particularly despised the Russians, so Tchaikovsky was in good company. Today Hanslick’s place in history rests chiefly on his being so wrong about Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto.

Violinist Dr. Ann Miller – photo courtesy Mariposa Symphony Orchestra

International virtuoso violinist Dr. Ann Miller last appeared with the MSO in 2013, performing Brahms’s Double Concerto with celebrated cellist Ira Lehn. While the standing-ovation audience was still applauding that performance in Yosemite’s Ahwahnee Hotel, Dr. Miller turned to Marsden to express her pleasure at their collaboration and her desire to return to play with the MSO again. Marsden suggested the great Tchaikovsky concerto and they agreed on the spot.

Miller has appeared in concert halls throughout North America, Europe and Asia and enjoys a varied career as a chamber musician, soloist and educator. She made her New York debut as a soloist with the New Juilliard Ensemble in Alice Tully Hall in the North American premiere of David Matthews’s Concerto No. 2.

She has participated in an exchange program between the Juilliard School and the Lucerne Festival Academy that culminated in performances in Switzerland and New York under the direction of the late Pierre Boulez. As a recitalist, Miller frequently collaborates with pianist Sonia Leong and their debut album of music by Beaser, Ysaÿe and Bartók was released in 2015.

An avid chamber musician, Miller is a member of Trio 180. In addition to performing in Canada, Mexico, Maryland, Oregon and Nevada, the trio has concertized throughout California in such venues as the Mondavi Center, Dinkelspiel Auditorium at Stanford University, and the Center for New Music in San Francisco. Trio 180 has also performed Beethoven’s Triple Concerto with the St. John’s Chamber Orchestra.

Ann Miller is an associate professor of violin at the Conservatory of Music of the University of the Pacific. She holds her Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees from the Juilliard School, and received her Bachelor of Music, summa cum laude, from Rice University. Her biographic details may be found here.

The MSO’s 2019 spring concerts featuring Ann Miller are scheduled for Saturday, Apr. 6, at 7 p.m. in the Fiester Auditorium of Mariposa County High School with a matinee performance on Sunday, Apr. 7, at 2 p.m. in the Great Lounge of the Majestic Yosemite (Ahwahnee) Hotel in Yosemite National Park.

The Yosemite concert (only) is free and seating is first-come, first-seated. That concert is made possible by the generous cooperation and assistance of Michael Reynolds, Superintendent of Yosemite National Park; the National Park Service; Yosemite Hospitality, a division of Aramark; Michael Boyer, Manager of the Majestic Yosemite Hotel; and the musicians of the Mariposa Symphony Orchestra.

Tickets for the Saturday concert in Mariposa are now available for general admission at $10 for adults and $6 for students. Special prices for Mariposa County Arts Council members are $8 for adults and $5 for students.

Tickets may be safely, securely purchased online by visiting http://tinyurl.com/MSOTickets. Tickets are also available in person at the Mariposa County Arts Council’s office and at Treetop Gallery on the top floor of the Chocolate Soup store at 5009 Highway 140. Call 209-966-3155 for tickets and information.

The MSO is a program of the Mariposa County Arts Council, Inc. Information including Marsden’s extensive program notes and composer bios/photos for each piece is available at http://tinyurl.com/MariposaSO.

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