Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra

   Howard Performing Arts Center
   Sun, March 19, 2023 @ 04:00 pm - 06:15 pm
    Howard Performing Arts Center
3:00 pm - Preconcert conversation with the conductor
4:00 pm - Concert begins
St. Joseph, Michigan - In the Shostakovich’s Fifth Mainstage Concert, the Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra will feature musical selections from musicians who create great art in the midst of darkness. American pianist and Gilmore Young Artist Maxim Lando will be the guest artist and perform Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, a work that takes inspiration from the Dies Irae, or Day of Wrath.
In addition to the 4 p.m. performance, patrons are invited to a pre-concert conversation with Conductor Matthew Aubin at 3 p.m. where they will hear about the music he has chosen and some of the history behind it. Aubin’s connection to both the music and the audience will bring an even greater insight into the performance for those who attend.
blue cathedral, 1999 Jennifer Higdon
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op.43, 1934 Sergei Rachmaninoff
     Featured Soloist Maxim Lando, pianist
Melody, 1982 Myroslav Skoryk
Symphony No.5 in D Minor, Op. 47, 1937 Dimitri Shostakovich
i. Moderato
ii. Allegretto
iii. Largo
iv. Allegro non troppo

Music Notes:

blue cathedral
An orchestral composition by the American composer Jennifer Higdon, blue cathedral is a work that was commissioned by the Curtis Institute of Music in 1999 to commemorate the conservatory's 75th anniversary. The piece is dedicated to the memory of Higdon's brother and is one of the composer's most performed works.
“Blue cathedral is a beautiful work that highlights two main instruments to represent her (Higdon) and her brother,” Aubin said. “It’s a beautiful metaphor.”
Winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in Music and a 2020 Grammy Award, Higdon said that when writing the composition, she reflected on the loss of her brother as well as “the amazing journeys we all make in our lives, crossing paths with so many individuals.”
The first solo in blue cathedral is the flute, which represents Higdon as she is the older sibling and plays that instrument. Her brother is represented by the instrument he played, the clarinet, and by the end of the piece, the dialogue between the flute and the clarinet continues until only the clarinet remains.
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini
Aubin said Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini has roots in the Day of Wrath, a well-known death chant. He said it sounds as though it would be a dark piece, but the way Sergei Rachmaninoff expresses himself through the music makes the piece very beautiful and uplifting.
Written in 1934, The Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43 is a work written by Sergei Rachmaninoff for piano and orchestra, closely resembling a piano concerto, all in a single movement. Rachmaninoff himself, a noted performer of his own works, played the piano part at the piece's premiere on November 7, 1934, at the Lyric Opera House in Baltimore, Maryland, with the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Leopold Stokowski. The pauses and rhetorical flourishes for the piano in variation VI herald a change of tempo and tone. The piano next gravely intones the Dies Irae, the "day of wrath" from the medieval Mass of the Dead, while the orchestra accompanies with a slower version of the opening motif of the Paganini theme. The piece is one of several by Rachmaninoff to quote the Dies Irae plainchant melody.
Guest Artist and Gilmore Young Artist Maxim Lando will perform the Rachmaninoff piece and astound the audience with his performance. As winner of the 2021 Juilliard Concerto Competition, he made his Alice Tully Hall debut performing Rachmaninoff Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini with the Juilliard Orchestra led by Xian Zhang. In 2020 Maxim was named Musical America’s New Artist of the Month, and in 2018 at the age 16, Maxim won  First Prize at the Young Concert Artists International Auditions. With an extensive resume including performing with major orchestras around the world, including Pittsburgh Symphony, Russian National Orchestra, Toronto Symphony, Israel Philharmonic, Mariinsky Theater Orchestra, Vancouver Symphony, Zurich Chamber Orchestra, Moscow Philharmonic, Hawaii Symphony, St. Petersburg Symphony, Memphis Symphony, Kazakh State Philharmonic, Beijing NCPA Orchestra, and many others, Maxim is passionate about chamber music and unusual repertoire. He is dedicated to making classical music accessible to his own generation.
Over a career that spanned six decades, Composer Myroslav Skoryk made immense contributions to musical life in Ukraine. Melody in A Minor, is disarmingly simple. Written in 1982, for the film High Mountain Pass, Skoryk said that he wanted this piece to convey an understanding of tragedy that cannot be expressed in words. Melody has since become one of Ukraine’s spiritual anthems and since the Russian invasion in February 2022, it has been heard in performances around the world as an expression of support for the Ukrainian nation and its people.
Shostakovich’s 5th
Early on, Dimitri Shostokovich’s works were popular with the audiences, however, after a performance of an opera he had written and that Joseph Stalin had attended, Shostakovich faced criticism from the Russian media, with Pravda publishing an editorial that ultimately was the signal for a nationwide campaign, during which even Soviet music critics who had praised the opera were forced to recant in print. The Pravda campaign against Shostakovich caused his commissions and concert appearances, and performances of his music, to decline markedly.
“We live in turbulent times with war going on and unfortunately this isn’t new, said Music Director Aubin, who programmed the upcoming concert. “The Fifth Symphony was written in the midst of Soviet censorship with Shostakovich having to find ways to get his music performed as it was being censored.”
Tickets are $20/$35; student tickets are $5. They are available online at, by calling the SMSO office at 269-982-4030 or in person at 513 Ship St., St. Joseph.
Sponsors: The Symphony is only able to present events with the support of the community. While their support takes many forms, we are particularly grateful for our event sponsors: Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, National Endowment for the Arts, Corewell Health, Susan Burkholz and Peter and Laura Claude.

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   Howard Performing Arts Center