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RVS schedules 2021-22 return, promises to ‘spread the feeling of joy

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Cellist and international performing artist Cicely Parnas will join RVS for its season-opening concerts in September. The New York Times praised her for her "velvety sound, articulate passagework, and keen imagination." Submitted photo.
Rogue Valley Symphony Music Director Martin Majkut is feeling the joy of being able to return to live performances when RVS kicks off its 2021-22 season Sept. 10. Photo by Christopher Briscoe for RVS.
Otis Murphy will be featured in the April RVS concerts, performing Henri Tomasi's "Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra." Submitted photo
Tomas Cotik will perform Antonio Vivaldi's "Autumn" from "The Four Seasons" and Astor Piazzolla's "Four Seasons of Buenos Aires" at the October RVS concerts.. Submitted photo.


With five Masterworks performances and one special event, next season marks the return to in-person performances for the Rogue Valley Symphony.

Everybody is happy about live music making its comeback. You can’t wipe the smile off the face of RVS Music Director Martin Majkut, and the same can probably be said of orchestra members, staff and patrons.

“The guiding principle for our 2021-22 season is to spread the feeling of joy,” Majkut said.

“Every concert is an ode of appreciation for lives lived to their fullest potential. Music has the miraculous power of reminding us of what truly matters.”

Majkut has missed the podium.

“I am a greedy conductor, and I have suffered enough,” he said, laughing.

After more than a year off, there were numerous openings in the orchestra, but all have been filled. “We had lots of interest from all over the West Coast,” Majkut said.

Concerts are scheduled for all three symphony venues in the Rogue Valley: the Southern Oregon Music Recital Hall in Ashland, Craterian Theater in Medford and the Grants Pass High School Performing Arts Center.

However, because of logistics and pandemic-related scheduling problems, not all weekend performances this season will enjoy the usual Ashland-Medford-Grants Pass rotation. Patrons should check their tickets or the website for details.

The season launches Sept. 10-12 at the Craterian in Medford, delving into the Classical period with joyful works by Joseph Bologne (better known as the Chevalier de Saint-Georges), Franz Joseph Haydn and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

Guest artist and cellist Cicely Parnas headlines the season opener, joining RVS in Tchaikovsky’s “Variations on a Rococo Theme.” Praised by The Washington Post as “self-possessed and musically poised,” Parnas started playing cello at the age of 4 and made her concert debut at age 11. She performs on a 1712 Giovanni Grancino cello.

The concert will open with “Symphony No. 1” by Saint-Georges and close with the Surprise symphony by Haydn (Symphony No. 94 in G Major). The surprise? A startling loud chord that occurs in the second movement amongst very soft dynamics.

Masterworks 2 on Oct. 8-10 will focus on music by Astor Piazzolla and Antonio Vivaldi. Portland-based violinist Tomas Cotik will perform in Piazzolla’s “Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas (Four Seasons of Buenos Aires) as well as “Autumn” from Vivaldi’s ubiquitous work, “The Four Seasons.” The RVS woodwind section will be featured in the opening number, Charles Gounod’s “Petite Symphonie.”

Masterworks 3 on Nov. 12-14 will feature a variety of musical voices, including a work by Jessie Montgomery, who recently was named the next composer in residence for the Chicago Symphony. Described as “turbulent, wildly colorful and exploding with life” by The Washington Post, her orchestral work, “Strum,” draws on American folk idioms that Majkut promises will have your toe tapping along.

Also on the program are Franz Schubert’s “Overture in the Italian Style,” an arrangement for woodwind quintet of British composer Percy Grainger’s “Lincolnshire Posy,” and Mozart’s “Clarinet Concerto,” featuring guest artist Wonkak Kim on the basset clarinet, the instrument for which Mozart wrote the concerto.

The new year brings Masterworks 4, which highlights the spirited relationships and love triangle of Clara Schumann, her husband Robert, and Johannes Brahms. Scheduled for Jan. 21-23, the concert features Brahms’ witty “Academic Festival Overture,” pianist Vijay Venkatesh performing Clara Schumann’s “Piano Concerto,” and Robert Schumann’s “Symphony No. 2 in C Major.”

A special program in collaboration with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival is set for one performance only on March 27 at the Craterian. The concert celebrates the American journey, featuring works by Peter Boyer, one of the most frequently performed American orchestral composers of his generation.

“The music on this concert explores how our nation came to be, and envisions what it may become,” Majkut said.

Boyer’s “Fanfare for Tomorrow,” which premiered at the last presidential inauguration, and “Ellis Island: The Dream of America” surround a multimedia amalgamation of the words of George Washington and the music of British composer Samuel Coleridge Taylor, “The American Rhapsody,” narrated by OSF’s Chris Butler.

Masterworks 5, the season finale on April 22-24, is structured like an inverted wedding cake.

“We start with a smaller ensemble,” Majkut said, “and work our way up to a very large orchestra.”

The program begins with French composer Darius Milhaud’s “Le Creation du Monde” (The Creation of the World), a jazz-tinged piece inspired by a 1920 visit to Harlem and stories of creation based on African myths.

Next, alto sax virtuoso Otis Murphy joins RVS to perform a colorful concerto by Henri Tomasi, followed by an arrangement of the familiar tune, “What a Wonderful World.” Murphy, professor of sax at Indiana University, was praised by the Chicago Tribune as playing “with a polish and sensitivity that make the most of the music.”

The concert and season close with the monumental “Pines of Rome” by Ottorino Respighi.

“It’s a glorious work,” Majkut said, “featuring an orchestra so large, some players will be among the audience.”

The four-movement symphonic poem is the second of Respighi’s trilogy of love poems based on the city, along with “Fountains of Rome” and “Roman Festivals.”

For tickets and more information, see rvsymphony.org or call the box office at 541-708-6400.

Reach Ashland writer Jim Flint at jimflint.ashland@yahoo.com.