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United States Marine Band

Colonel Jason K. Fettig, Director
Unit News
Marine Chamber Orchestra Performs Grieg’s Piano Concerto

By Gunnery Sgt. Brian Rust | United States Marine Band | January 24, 2018


The Marine Chamber Orchestra will kick off its first concert of the 2018 season at 2 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 28, with a program honoring the 150th anniversary of Edvard Grieg’s prominent Piano Concerto in A minor, Opus 16. Conducted by Assistant Director Maj. Michelle A. Rakers, the performance, titled “Grieg’s Piano Concerto and his Leipzig Influence,” will also feature works by Felix Mendelssohn and Robert Schumann, two composers who markedly influenced Grieg’s compositional style. The concert is free and open to the public; no tickets are required. Free parking is available in the garage adjacent to the hall.

The program will begin with Mendelssohn’s Ruy Blas Overture, Opus 95. Ruy Blas is a romantic tragedy by playwright Victor Hugo about an ordinary young man who rises to great political power and later sacrifices himself to save the queen’s life. The Leipzig Theatrical Pension Fund commissioned Mendelssohn to write an overture and a song for an 1839 performance of Hugo’s play in Germany. Mendelssohn wrote the song, but did not bother with the overture. The Leipzig Fund thanked him for the song and expressed regret that he had not managed to produce the overture. Mendelssohn apparently took this as a challenge and finished an overture in three days. The work was a success and garnered praise for its admirable depiction of the principal ingredients of Hugo’s drama.

Following Mendelssohn’s Overture, the orchestra will perform Grieg’s Piano Concerto featuring soloist Staff Sgt. Christopher Schmitt. “Although the piece certainly contains many moments of virtuosic bravura and showmanship, I think my favorite moments are found in several of the softer and slower sections,” Schmitt said about performing the concerto. “Grieg’s expressive sense of melody, his lush harmonies, and the unique nature of his own Norwegian background create many utterly sublime moments throughout the work.”

Although a native of Norway, Grieg studied in Leipzig, Germany, where he became friends with and was influenced by fellow composers Mendelssohn and Schumann. His piano concerto was an immediate success, launching him into the international spotlight, and the work remains a staple in the piano repertoire today.

The concert will conclude with Schumann’s Symphony No. 4 in D minor, Opus 120, which was his final symphony. Not long after concluding the composition, the composer attempted suicide by jumping into the Rhine River. Although he was rescued, he committed himself into a sanatorium, afraid he might be a danger to his wife and others. He remained there until his death in 1856. Nicknamed the Clara Symphony after Schumann’s wife Clara, the first version of the symphony was considered a disaster due to multiple unfavorable circumstances. Schumann shelved the work and revisited it 10 years later. The revised work was performed in 1853 in Düsseldorf, Germany, to a glowing reception.

Complete program and notes

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