By Russell Florence Jr.
Sept 27, 2023
The Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra’s 2023-2024 Masterworks Series opens Sept. 29-30 at 7:30 p.m. at the Schuster Center.
Under the direction of DPO Artistic Director and Conductor Neal Gittleman, the program will consist of the Dayton premiere of Jessie Montgomery’s patriotic “Banner” in addition to Sergei Rachmaninoff’s energetic, sweeping “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini” and Modest Mussorgsky’s flavorful “Pictures at an Exhibition.”
“We open the program with an exciting piece by a popular young American composer, Jessie Montgomery,” said Gittleman, in a news release. “Her piece, ‘Banner,’ is a musical kaleidoscope based on melodic fragments from ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ and several other countries’ national anthems, plus the rhythm of our Pledge of Allegiance.”
Montgomery, who wrote ‘Banner’ to mark the 200th anniversary of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner,’ is known as an acclaimed composer, violinist and arts educator. In 2009, she was commissioned to compose a tribute to the election of Barack Obama. She has also written other works through her affiliation with The Sphinx Organization, which supports young African American and Latinx musicians.
Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody” is an orchestral work closely resembling a piano concerto but is performed in one movement. He performed the piece with Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1934. “Rhapsody” will feature pianist Aleksandra Kasman Laude, a native of Moscow who has performed worldwide and was named a Young Artist-in-Residence of National Public Radio’s “Performance Today” in 2019. She has also appeared in numerous international competitions and, most recently, became a finalist in the 2022 Honens International Piano Competition in Canada. She has also been a soloist with over a dozen symphony orchestras in the U.S. and abroad, including Juilliard Orchestra and Calgary Symphony, and has appeared seven times with National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine. She is also an assistant professor of piano at Utah State University.
“We’ll welcome back the incredible young pianist Aleksandra Kasman Laude,” added Gittleman, “who wowed audiences playing Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto in 2022. (And) 2023 is the 150th anniversary of Rachmaninoff’s birth, so inviting Aleksandra back to play Rachmaninoff’s thrilling ‘Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini’ was a no-brainer.”
Modest Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” was written shortly after the sudden death of his friend, architect, and painter, Viktor Hartmann. The piece is a musical depiction of Mussorgsky’s tour of an exhibition of Hartmann’s works at the Imperial Academy of Arts in Saint Petersburg. Originally a piano suite in 10 movements composed in 1874, composer Maurice Ravel was commissioned to orchestrate the suite in 1922, and quickly became one of the most often performed and recorded orchestral works today.
Gittleman noted “Pictures at an Exhibition” is a personal favorite of Patrick Nugent, President and CEO of the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance.
“When Patrick joined the DPAA as our new President and CEO, he casually mentioned that ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’ was his favorite orchestral music,” said Gittleman. “The last time the DPO played that amazing piece was five years ago, and ‘Pictures’ is what I think of as a ‘five-year piece.’ In other words, you can program it every five years and it’s not too soon. So, I immediately penciled in ‘Pictures’ for the 2023-2024 season.”