La Jolla Symphony & Chorus (LJS&C) continues its season-long exploration of the theme “Lineage” with the fifth concert of the series, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 4 and 2 p.m. Sunday, May 5 in Mandeville Auditorium on the UC San Diego campus in La Jolla.
Music Director Steven Schick will conduct the orchestra in a three-part program that begins with Julia Wolfe’s “Fuel,” performed with film by Bill Morrison; Young Artists Competition winner Anne Liu as soloist in Camille Saint-Saëns’ “Piano Concerto No. 2"; and Jean Sibelius’s “Fifth Symphony.”
Wolfe composed “Fuel” in 2007 as a joint project with filmmaker Bill Morrison. The collaboration was the result of a commission from the European string orchestra Ensemble Resonanz. In her introduction to the program note, she writes: “the members of (Ensemble Resonanz) challenged me to write something rip-roaring and virtuosic, asking me to push the group to the limit.”
Wolfe took the request and shaped it with the sounds of transport and big-city harbors, “large ships, creaking docks, whistling sounds, and a relentless energy.” The result is high-intensity music that explodes to life, taking the audience on a white-hot musical ride throughout its 20 minutes. The music is a perfect correlative to Morrison’s film depicting time-lapse vistas of busy waterfronts.
Saint-Saëns’ “Piano Concerto No. 2" was written in 17 days and premiered with the composer as soloist on May 13, 1868. In a nontraditional start, the first movement opens with an extended cadenza for solo piano before the orchestra enters. This cadenza is less of a bravura showcase than neoclassical homage to J.S. Bach, a composer that Saint-Saëns greatly admired.
The second movement carries forward the piano’s opening dancing theme in a rondo repeated by the strings and developed through a series of musical episodes. The finale sweeps across the range of the keyboard in music that sparkles and bubbles along to its exciting conclusion.
Sibelius’s “Symphony No. 5" had a difficult birth — it went through three versions over five years. The final, performed in this concert, was premiered in Helsinki on Nov. 24, 1919. The symphony has an unusual structure, evolving organically from a few fundamental ideas, the most important being the horn call from the opening. In the final movement, the music bursts to life in a great rush of energy. Over the peal of the horns, the woodwinds sing a radiant melody that has been compared to the last movement of Beethoven’s “Ninth Symphony.” This melody evolves and finally builds to a great climax, driving the symphony to a smashing close.
A pre-concert lecture by Schick is given one hour before concert start. Parking is free on weekends. Tickets are $15-$35 at (858) 534-4637 or lajollasymphony.com