They opened with Grieg's Holberg Suite - regular readers of this blog know how much I love Grieg. The Holberg Suite not only shows Grieg's interest in baroque forms, but it has strong Norwegian folk elements. The principal violin and viola players got a good workout playing in duet during the finale. it was like a Norwegian wedding dance!
Next up was a set of four pieces - a 'four seasons' suite - by Astor Piazzolla played by the orchestra with my teacher and friend Lidia Kaminska. This suite has an interesting history, they started out as four separate pieces for tango quintet representing the four seasons. They were composed at different times over many years. "Verano Porteno" is probably the best known. Violinist Gidon Kremer got the idea to put them together as a suite, in the manner of Vivaldi, and he commisioned the Russian composer/arranger Leonid Desyatnikov to create it. Desyatnikov also threw in a few references to Vivaldi for good measure. The liner notes for the CD they made probably explain it best. Now, in 2009, Lidia took the solo violin part and arranged it for bandoneon, which sounds appropriate because these melodies started out on that instrument. So the piece comes full circle. And it sounded great. This was videotaped and will be broadcast on WHYY TV Channel 12 at some time in the future.
The final piece on the program was the well known Tchaikovsky Serenade for Strings, which is so wonderful to see and hear up close (we were in the front row), to see how masterfully Tchaikovsky uses all of the string instrument groups, divided and subdivided into many parts to achieve a fully orchestrated sound. The Symphony in C strings shone beautifully here.
After the show I was fortunate enough to be able to hang out with some of the musicians, chatting about Piazzolla over cake and coffee until 1 am.