The Rogue Valley Symphony, joined by the San Francisco-based Cypress String Quartet, will bring on the heat during its November concert series.
Together the ensembles, under the baton of Martin Majkut, will present composer Pablo Furman's modern and heart-pumping "Paso del Fuego" ("Passage of Fire"). The symphony will bookend the piece with two favorite, classical works, Beethoven's "Prometheus Overture" and Mozart's Symphony No. 40.
"Furman's in good company," Majkut says.
Performances are set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 1, in the Music Recital Hall on the Southern Oregon University campus, 1250 Siskiyou Blvd., Ashland; 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 2, at the Craterian Theater, 23 S. Central Ave., Medford; and 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 3, 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.
The Cypress String Quartet, featuring violinists Cecily Ward and Tom Stone, violist Ethan Filner and cellist Jennifer Kloetzel, premiered Furman's piece in 2010 with the San Jose Chamber Orchestra.
"Furman wrote the piece with the four of us in mind," Kloetzel says. "He went so far as to create a cipher with each of our names that appears in the music, so it's very personal and really special."
"Paso del Fuego" contains the adventurous beats of Furman's native Argentina paired with the tug of Eastern European traditions as seen in some of the more somber, undecorated chords. There's also a lot of dialogue between the orchestra and the quartet throughout the 35-minute, five-movement piece, which Kloetzel describes as "exciting, passionate, clever and thrilling."
"During the middle or third movement, the orchestra and quartet are doing a lot of plucking, so it's also kind of jazzy, and the last movement is an energy rush, like it should be," she says.
Since its genesis more than 17 years ago, the quartet has commissioned and premiered more than 30 new works by emerging and celebrated composers.
"We think that it's important that this art form remains current and that we are not just historians but that we are bringing new music to now," Kloetzel says.
On Nov. 12, the quartet will release its 14th album, "The American Album," featuring music by Antonin Dvorak, Charles Griffes and Samuel Barber, as well as a piece, "Lento Assai," by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Kevin Puts that was commissioned by the quartet in 2008.
Kloetzel says Furman, a friend and colleague, will attend all three of this weekend's concerts.
As Prometheus was the Greek god responsible for bringing fire to humanity, Majkut thought it was only right to include Beethoven's "Prometheus Overture" on the program.
An early Beethoven, the overture has a light, classical feel, but in the second half, "the melody of the violins is made up of very fast passages that reach higher and higher like flames," Majkut says.
Mozart's 40th, most famous and most passionate symphony was a fitting choice for the second half of the concerts.
"It's a romantic, melancholic piece with rich, dense harmonies that create stormy and dramatic music that was unusually emotional for Mozart's time," Majkut says.