A common misconception non-classical music lovers can have about the art form is that it is boring, stuffy, self-serious, and over-dramatic. The Savannah Philharmonic Orchestra wants to present classical music’s comic side with a program of witty and jubilant pieces, including even one by perpetual scowler Ludwig van Beethoven.
Led by guest conductor Janna Hymes — who is from Indiana’s Carmel Symphony Orchestra and known for her “versatility, passion and innovation” — the Savannah Philharmonic will begin the program with Jacques Ibert’s “Divertissement.” The piece was originally written for the theater and features “wah-wah-wah” horns and send-ups of popular music of the time. It is kind of the Weird Al Yankovic of its time with spoofs of well known melodies like Felix Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March” and wrong note versions of waltzes like “Blue Danube.”
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 12 in A major, K. 414 is a delightful bit of ear candy that the composer described himself in a letter to his father as "...a happy medium between what is too easy and too difficult; they are very brilliant to the ear, and natural, without being vapid. There are passages here and there from which connoisseurs alone can derive satisfaction; but these passages are written in such a way that the less discriminating cannot fail to be pleased, though without knowing why."
Beethoven’s Symphony No. 8 is his most cheerful and was affectionately described by him as his “little symphony in F.” Some of the passages in the symphony can even be considered “jokes.” And Giochini Rossini’s “Barber of Seville: Overture” is arguably the most recognizable piece on the program (thanks to Bugs Bunny) and is known as one of the greatest masterpieces of comic music.
Joining the Savannah Philharmonic on this joyfully silly program is 18-year-old piano prodigy Nathan Lee. Lee is a Korean-American from Portland, Oregon who began playing piano at the age of six. By age nine, Lee performed in his first orchestra and has been earning prizes and accolades ever since including the top prize in the 2016 Young Concert Artists International Auditions when he was 15. Critics have called Lee “prodigiously talented” and have praised his “relaxed demeanor,” and audiences have been dazzled by his “rhapsodic, compelling, and technically sound” performances.
With the world-class Lee and Hymes at the helm, “Mischievous Musicians” promises to be a fun night at the symphony.
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“Mozart and Rossini are perhaps the music world’s most-appreciated comedians and we anticipate the audience will appreciate their humor in the evening’s program,” said Savannah Philharmonic Executive Director Terri O’Neil. “Selected works by Ibert and Beethoven will contribute to the merriment of the performance. Attendees are sure to leave the performance feeling uplifted.”
For those who want to learn more about the program there will be a pre-concert talk at 6:30 p.m. by Edward Lada, director of artistic operations for the Savannah Philharmonic.