At this season’s opening concert for the Folsom Symphony, Maestro Michael Neumann conducted a brief experiment with the audience.
“Listen to this passage from Tchaikovsky’s ‘Symphony No. 4′,” he told them before the symphony performed a few brief phrases of the piece.
The music was beautiful.
“Now, close your eyes,” Neumann said. “And this time, I want you to think of someone you love very much … someone you have not seen in a very long time.”
The symphony repeated the music. But this time eyes teared up and many people reached for the Kleenex.
Neumann’s point to the audience that evening was this: Music is able to communicate on a variety of levels. It has the unique ability to reach into the deepest parts of the human soul.
February’s annual Valentine’s concert is appropriately dubbed “Music of the Heart.” But this year’s performance will have an additional component: the symphony is mourning the loss of one of its own.
On Dec. 15 Alexander Ashton, the assistant principal cellist, passed away unexpectedly at the age of 27. He was a founding member of the symphony, much beloved by his colleagues. Ashton was a member of the Sacramento Youth Symphony Premier Orchestra for eight years, and he also played with the Sacramento Valley Choral Society for seven years. He was a member of Broken Iris and Green Audio, both popular Sacramento area bands.
The symphony will dedicate a selection at the Feb. 11 performance to Ashton’s memory. Sir Edward Elgar’s “Enigma Variations” was dedicated by the composer “to my friends pictured within.” Composed 1898-1899, this work has fascinated musicians ever since. What is the mystery about the people portrayed in the music? Elgar said there was a hidden theme that is “not played,” but no one guessed it during his lifetime. He took the secret with him to the grave. It is entirely appropriate that this most popular of Elgar’s works be dedicated to Alex Ashton.
In keeping with the theme of immortal love, Neumann will conduct the symphony through 11 soul-stirring and romantic works from both the classical and popular repertoire.
Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s “Romeo and Juliet” kicks things off. (Listen for the “beating hearts” leitmotif during the love theme). Surprisingly, it took this famous work some time to become popular. It was first performed in 1870. Tchaikovsky revised it twice, and the final version we know today premiered in 1886.
Audience members will recognize Gilbert Fauré’s “Pavane, Op. 50” from the 2010 version of the film “Ice Castles.”
Most students of the piano have played Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata.” Natsuki Fukasawa returns to the Folsom Symphony to perform this work as a guest soloist. She will also perform the second movement of Wolfgang A. Mozart’s “Concerto No. 21,” which audience members may recognize from the Swedish film “Elvira Madigan.”
After intermission, the Folsom Symphony will perform Mozart’s overture to “The Marriage of Figaro,” followed by Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Air on the G String.” Interestingly, this early 1700s work by Bach was the very first work of Bach to be recorded, in 1902.
The second soloist of the evening is the Folsom Symphony’s own Curtis Kidwell. He will perform his own arrangement of Ennio Morricone’s “Gabriel’s Oboe” — the theme from the 1986 film “The Mission.”
Frequent goers to the Folsom Symphony will quickly recognize Concertmaster Anita Felix. She will be the third soloist of the evening, performing the second movement of Tchaikovsky’s “Violin Concerto No. 1 ‘Romance.’”
Elgar’s “Enigma Variations” will be performed, followed by the theme from the 1970 film “Love Story” by Francis Lai.
The concluding performance of the evening is Bedřich Smetana’s “Moldau,” which was first performed in 1874.
Audience members can expect a performance of the first order at this concert that has so much significance for members of the Folsom Symphony. Always thinking of others, these talented musicians will also perform for one of their own. And that is music from the heart.
“Music of the Heart” will be performed one evening only, on Saturday, Feb. 11, at 7:30 p.m. The main Three Stages theater at the Folsom Lake College performing arts complex is located at 10 College Parkway (just off East Bidwell Street) in Folsom. Parking is free.
Single tickets are $25 to $55. Discounted season tickets and student rates are available. To purchase call (916) 608-6888 or visit folsomsymphony.com.
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