Rogue Valley Symphony's summer concert series sold out in a hurry, but its new 2013-2014 concert season provides 19 more opportunities to hear compelling music by world-class musicians.
"I keep fine-tuning the orchestra, and I'm convinced that this is the best orchestra that I've had so far," says symphony Director Martin Majkut. "They are a well-oiled machine."
That well-oiled machine presents its first concert series this weekend, with performances at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 4, at the Music Recital Hall on the Southern Oregon University campus, 1250 Siskiyou Blvd., Ashland; 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 5, at the Craterian Theater, 23 S. Central Ave., Medford; and 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 6, at the Performing Arts Center, 830 N.E. Ninth St., Grants Pass.
Tickets cost $33, $38, $44 or $50 for the Ashland concert; $28, $33, $38 or $44 for the Medford concert; and $20, $28 or $34 for the Grants Pass show. Student tickets cost $5 at all shows. Call 541-552-6398 or see www.rvsymphony.org.
Before bringing on its guest soloist, RVS will present Swiss composer Arthur Honegger's "Pastorale d'ete."
"After the summer series was so hopelessly sold out, I wanted to give people a taste of summer past," Majkut says.
Following Majkut's farewell-to-summer selection, pianist and guest soloist Sara Davis Buechner, together with the symphony, will perform Antonin Dvorak's Piano Concerto.
"I originally asked her to do something else, but she suggested this, and I got really excited because there are very few people who play Dvorak's Piano Concerto," Majkut says.
Buechner studied at The Juilliard School and the Manhattan School of Music and now teaches at the University of British Columbia in Victoria, British Columbia.
"I have the same birth date as the composer, and since I was a kid, I have enjoyed Dvorak's works," Buechner says. "When I was at Juilliard, I studied under Rudolf Firkusny, the most famous Czech pianist of all time, and this concerto was one of his signature pieces."
"The first movement is very broad and sweeping with a magnificent cadenza, and the last movement is in the form of a rollicking polka. The pianist gets a really big workout as do the woodwinds, who have several solo lines."
This weekend's concerts will conclude with Johannes Brahms' most progressive symphony, Symphony No. 3. Majkut explains that in the piece Brahms' misplaces accents and is ambiguous about the key.
"The key starts in F major but, by the fourth measure, is already in F minor," Majkut says. "This conflict goes on throughout the whole piece and only gets resolved in the last movement in the last 30 seconds when the initial melody comes back and is reaffirmed as being in the major key."
"It was very 20th century of him even though the piece was written in the 19th century."
RVS' season continues with a concert series held almost every month through April. Audiences can look forward to hearing San Francisco's Cypress String Quartet in November; Christmas music in December; "the most ambitious project" of Majkut's tenure, Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 4, in January; Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's popular Piano Concerto No. 1 by guest pianist Alexander Tutunov in February and March; and Leonard Bernstein's "West Side Story: Symphonic Dances" and music on bandoneon (a South American instrument similar to the accordion) by Peter Soave in April.
"I'm convinced that people are going to have a hard time not getting up and dancing in the aisles," Majkut says of the April concert series.
"One of the comments, I value most and that I often hear from our patrons is that every concert is a completely different experience. That's my goal, to give you the greatest possible variety so you are never bored."