Take Note: January News from the PSONew year, new chances to discover and love classical music
Take Note January 2022
From the Maestro
As we move through the January blues it seems appropriate that our next Jimmy’s performance is a Rhapsody in Blue.
Most jazz is based on a simple musical idea and subsequent variation or improvisation. The classical equivalent is the Fantasy or Rhapsody.
I’ve conducted Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue many times and I’ve come to see it as a written out improvisation. I suppose there are certain Classical composers who have written in that way, but I think Gershwin was deliberately inviting us to perform spontaneously. To that end, I once conducted a performance with a fabulous Venezuelan pianist who, at one point, departed from the written score and extemporized! It was both terrifying and exhilarating and I couldn't help but wonder if Gershwin would have looked on with a knowing smile.
The dichotomy of structure versus freedom is one of the things that unites and divides Classical Music and Jazz. It’s a sliding scale and the fundamental condition of all music. Music reflects life and this tension reflects how we see and organize our lives.
As we move into another winter of COVID and it’s Omicron “variation,” Rhapsody is our way to help reflect the improvisation we’ve all had to embrace in our lives and reminds us to continue to try to seek a balance between freedom and structure.
Until next time,
Meet Your Orchestra
Dr. Rick Miller, Pianist
Years involved with the PSO: 8 Age started playing piano: 7
Why did you choose the piano?
I fell in love with a recording of Sergei Rachmaninoff performing his Second Piano Concerto. I literally wore out the record I played it so many times.
Also, as a young boy I was enchanted by a beautiful teenage girl who played the piano in the lobby of High Hampton Inn where our family summered every August. I thought if I could play the piano as beautifully as her, she might reciprocate my secret love...
What do you like about playing with a symphony orchestra?
To this day, collaborating as a soloist with the musicians of a symphony orchestra seems like the most exciting and important thing one could do. Learning and then performing the Rachmaninoff Fourth Piano Concerto with the New Orleans Symphony Orchestra in 1985 is my proudest achievement ever.
What is your favorite piece to play on the piano?
Honestly, its a question that's almost impossible to answer. But maybe Ravel’s ravishing Ondine from the Suite “Gaspard de la Nuit."
You can hear Dr. Miller perform Spiegel im Spiegel by Arvo Pärt with violinist Nicole Wendl and selections from Ravel’s Suite “Ma Mère l’Oye” on January 23 at the Up Close & Personal with the PSO's chamber music concert at Jimmy's Jazz & Blues Club.
The Next Generation
Congratulations to the fall class of Stringendo students who performed their end of semester concert at St. John's Episcopal Church last month.
The 2022 semester begins January 17 and new students are being accepted.
As part of Stringendo, students perform classical masterworks; learn music theory and music history; study scores, balance parts and learn to blend sounds; perform in masterclasses with professional musicians; and make new connections.
Please note: All of the PSO's concerts have COVID-19 audience policies in place. You can review the policies for each of the venues here.
Up Close and Personal with the PSO @ Jimmy's
"Rhapsody" January 23, 5:30pm
Jimmy's Jazz & Blues Club, Portsmouth
Gershwin’s celebrated Rhapsody in Blue is the centerpiece of this concert and represents the quintessential blending of jazz and classical music. Arranged for piano quintet, the piece will be performed by Boston-based pianist Tianhong Yang on Jimmy’s resident Steinway piano along with Nicole Wendl and Subiaou Zhang Carter on violin, Theresa Cleary on viola, and Johnny Mok on cello.
The concert also includes the sublime Spiegel im Spiegel by Arvo Pärt performed by Dr. Rick Miller on piano and Nicole Wendl on violin. This is an iconic work with an introspective atmosphere created by the simplicity and pure sonorities of the music and exemplifies a style he invented and termed tintinnabuli, in which simple fragments of sound recur, like the ringing of bells.
Tickets: $75 for adults and include the concert, appetizers, dinner, and dessert from an a la carte menu that will change seasonally. Buy your ticket today!
Join us for the full series of unique and wonderful performances at Jimmy's. All performances take place on Sundays at 5:30pm. Full program details can be found on the PSO’swebsite.
The Portsmouth Symphony Orchestra Winter Concert program features a sublime trio of works that highlight the full symphony’s capacity for melodic richness. Opening the program is Kareem Roustom’s Ramal, a rich and optimistic work, deeply imbued with elements from the composer’s Syrian heritage.
Strauss’s Death and Transfiguration is a tour-the-force tone poem, offering Strauss’ legendary symphonic richness while thematically dealing with the passage from darkness to light.
The concert concludes with Rachmaninov’s 2nd piano concerto—one of the crown jewels of the piano concerto repertoire—performed by internationally renowned pianist Ya-Fei Chuang.
Lawrence Connell Joins PSO Board of Directors
The PSO is pleased to welcome Lawrence Connell as a new member of the Board of Directors. Larry brings to the PSO a wealth of experience serving on nonprofit performing arts boards, including those of the Hartford Stage Company, Seattle Symphony, and the Portland (ME) Symphony.
Larry is an energetic leader with a long and distinguished career in banking and finance in both the public and private sectors. Most recently, he served as conservator of an international bank in Malta that was in crisis.
Larry holds a BA from Harvard University, a JD from Georgetown University, and a MA in Economics from Trinity University in Hartford, CT.
Investing in Music
Making a bequest to the Symphony as part of your Will and Trusts helps to sustain the future of live classical music in Portsmouth and is a great expression of your personal legacy as a music lover.
Bequests may be directed either toward the General Fund or Educational Programs. To discuss how you can leave a legacy of support, contact us at (603) 686-8133 or firstname.lastname@example.org.