By Natasha Anderson
The Asheville Symphony presents Beethoven’s Pastoral in concert on Saturday, February 23, at 8 p.m. at Thomas Wolfe Auditorium. Led by guest conductor Mei- Ann Chen, the evening also features Kodály’s Dances of Galánta and Dvorák’s Violin Concerto, with guest violinist Alexi Kenney.
“Kodaly, Dvorak and Beethoven are three composers with distinct voices, yet their works on this particular program share the common thread of music associated with folk influence,” says Chen.
The program opens with Dances of Galánta, a collection of Hungarian village dances reimagined as a symphonic work and transformed with colors of the modern symphony orchestra. Next, Kenney makes his Asheville Symphony debut in Dvorák’s Violin Concerto. Kenney is the recipient of a 2016 Avery Fisher Career Grant and winner of the 2013 Concert Artists Competition. He has been profiled by Strings magazine and the New York Times, has written for The Strad, and has been featured on Performance Today and NPR’s From the Top.
“Dvorak’s Violin Concerto is a very underrated piece in our repertoire,” says Kenney. “Full of the composer’s characteristic Czech folk influence, it includes one of the most lyrical and gorgeous slow movements ever.” The program ends with Beethoven’s beloved Pastoral, which was inspired by the composer’s love of nature and walks in the countryside. Fans of Disney’s 1940 film Fantasia will recognize the piece from the film’s depiction of Greek mythological creatures, including centaurs, winged horses and cherubs.
“Pastoral is an important composition exploring the relationship between music and nature,” says Chen. “It also tests the listener’s musicianship as Beethoven expressed so much using minimal musical materials.”
Chen is the music director of the MacArthur Award-winning Chicago Sinfonietta and the artistic director and conductor for the National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra Summer Festival. She also holds the title of Conductor Laureate of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra. A sought-after guest conductor, she has appeared with distinguished orchestras all over the world.
Thomas Wolfe Auditorium is located at 87 Haywood Street. Tickets can be purchased online at AshevilleSymphony.org, by phone at 828.254.7046, in person at 27 College Place, Suite 100, or at the U.S. Cellular Center Box Office.