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"The President's Own"

United States Marine Band

Colonel Jason K. Fettig, Director
Unit News
Marine Chamber Orchestra: Beginnings and Endings

By Master Sgt. Kristin duBois | United States Marine Band | May 8, 2019

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The Marine Chamber Orchestra will wrap up its 2019 winter-spring season with a conductorless concert and special guest piano soloist Roman Rabinovich performing Ludwig van Beethoven’s final Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat, Opus 73, Emperor, at 2 p.m., Sunday, May 12. The program will also feature young composer Alistair Coleman’s Constellations and Edvard Grieg’s String Quartet No. 1 in G minor, Opus 27. The free performance will take place at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall at Northern Virginia Community College in Alexandria, Va. Rabinovich will give a pre-concert lecture at 1:15 p.m. in the concert hall.

Concertmaster Staff Sgt. Karen Johnson was inspired to program this concert by a recent performance of the Beethoven piano concerto cycle. She saw that there was precedent to use an arrangement for a string orchestra and soloist. “Bringing in guest artists is a really crucial practice for artistic organizations as it infuses new ideas and thought into all aspects of what we do,” she said. “We’re looking for fresh perspectives and amazing artists to share with our audiences. Roman is an outstanding musician, international competition winner, and someone who will no doubt thrill our audience with his performance.”

Born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Rabinovich immigrated to Israel with his family in 1994, where he began his piano studies with Irena Vishnevitsky and Arie Vardi. He went on to graduate from the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia as a student of Seymour Lipkin, and earned his master’s degree at the Juilliard School in New York, where he studied with Robert McDonald. He has been highly lauded by The New York Times, BBC Music Magazine, the San Francisco Classical Voice, and others. He has performed throughout Europe and the United States in venues such as Wigmore Hall in London, Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Centre in New York, the Great Hall at the Moscow Conservatory, the Cité de la Musique in Paris, and the Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D. C.

“I’m happy Karen suggested Beethoven’s ‘Emperor’ concerto,” Rabinvoch said. “It is one of the most beloved and significant works in the literature, and is one of my most favorite concertos to perform. It has everything; virtuosity, power, lyricism, poetry, bravura and exhilarating rhythmic zest. For those who hear this piece for the first time, you are in for a treat. I still remember the first time I heard it, Edwin Fischer's recording, being blown away by its beauty and every time I perform it I try to recreate this sense of discovery. The way Beethoven revolutionized the piano concerto and transformed/extended the form of the concert to an epic scale is exciting. It is very bold and courageous music, but at the same time there is so much tenderness. Beethoven plays around with the narrative and puts it on its head. Take the beginning for example. Traditionally, the orchestra starts and introduces the themes and the pianist has the cadenza, a virtuoso solo passage, at the end of the movement. Not here. Beethoven starts the piece with flashy solo piano flourishes, exploring all the registers of the keyboard, and only after the piano finishes the orchestra starts the first tutti. The ‘heart’ of the piece is in the second movement, though, and it’s the most beautiful and noble music ever written. The concerto concludes with a thrilling contradance in the Finale. The Marine Chamber Orchestra has a reputation of having excellent musicians in their ensemble and I look forward to making music with them.”

As Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 was the last of his concertos and composed toward the end of his life, the program is juxtaposed with Constellations by Alistair Coleman who is at the beginning of his career. A native Washingtonian, Coleman is a young composer finishing his sophomore year at The Juilliard School in New York. Recently, he was appointed the Composer-in-Residence of the National

Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorale. His music has been programmed broadly, including commissions and performances by “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band, Atlantic Music Festival Orchestra, Maryland Classic Youth Orchestra, Houston Brass Band, Washington Master Chorale, Boston University Chapel Choir, National Cathedral Choral Society, musicians from the Baltimore and National Symphonies, Carnegie Hall’s Ensemble Connect, and the Minnesota Opera Orchestra. With three published works, Alistair is the youngest composer ever published by E.C. Schirmer Music Company in its 100 year history. He has received awards and honors from ASCAP, American Composers Forum, and the National YoungArts Foundation and was featured on the National Public Radio show, “From the Top” with Host Christopher O’Riley in 2018.

“It is humbling and very exciting to be in a room where people are coming together to bring to life a new piece I’ve composed,” Coleman said. “It can be really hard not to get caught up with this excitement, or joyful terror, of hearing a brand new piece for the first time, especially since everyone, including myself, has no idea what’s going to happen. As a young composer, I learn so much from working directly with musicians who play my work. I will often ask players to demonstrate different techniques, or show me alternative ways of notating ideas in order to learn more idiomatic ways of writing for different instruments. The process is very experimental and collaborative, and especially since composing can be a solitary sport, working with other musicians as a team to bring a new piece to life can be such a rewarding experience. With a piece that is receiving a second or, in this case, fifth performance, it is never less nerve-wracking to hear the piece live. However, it’s wonderful to hear the different interpretations and personalities each ensemble brings to the piece. I’m incredibly excited about the Marine Chamber Orchestra performing this work, and I feel very fortunate to have the privilege of working with such a renowned ensemble.”

The program will conclude with Edvard Grieg’s String Quartet No. 1 in G minor, his only complete string quartet. He borrowed music from his own song “Spillamæd” (“Minstrels”), turning it into the seminal theme that runs through the entire work. The serious melody opens the first movement, voiced by all four players in unison and set in a stately Andante, which moves into a seething Allegro molto ed agitato. The second movement Romanze is a slowly-accelerating waltz that builds in momentum to an Intermezzo movement in the form of a folksy scherzo. The Finale includes the instruction “saltarello” in the title, referencing the lively Italian dance, but with Grieg’s signature Norwegian voice.

The concert will take place at 2 p.m., Sunday, May 12 at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall at Northern Virginia Community College in Alexandria, Va. A pre-concert lecture will take place at 1:15 p.m. in the hall. The concert is free; no tickets are required and free parking is available.

Concert program and notes

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