This preview has been provided by the North Carolina Symphony.
Several years ago, North Carolina Symphony Principal Bass Leonid (Lenny) Finkelshteyn began prodding composer and bass trombonist Terry Mizesko to write a concerto for double bass. What began as something to joke about at rehearsals or before concerts (Mizesko was a member of the Symphony for 46 years, until his retirement in 2017) gradually turned into a more serious conversation – and ultimately, the idea became a reality. Now, in three concerts in Southern Pines, Raleigh, and New Bern, Finkelshteyn will give the world premiere of Mizesko's Concerto for Double Bass and String Orchestra.
Mizesko, a North Carolina native, has composed and arranged numerous works for NCS, and his music is consistently popular (Sketches from Pinehurst is an audience favorite). NCS Music Director Grant Llewellyn is an advocate of Mizesko's music and is thrilled to present this brand-new concerto, which provides a rare opportunity to experience the capabilities of the double bass as a solo instrument.
"I can't imagine a better marriage than having a bass trombonist write a concerto for double bass – Lenny and Terry live in that same deep, dark, bass world and have spent decades playing the bass lines together," explains Llewellyn. "Terry's works are always winners, written beautifully for the orchestra that he knows from the inside, and our audiences just lap up his music."
Given Finkelshteyn's and Mizesko's long history as friends and colleagues, the process of completing the concerto was collaborative – with Finkelshteyn reviewing drafts and making suggestions on what would best suit the technical abilities of the bass, and Mizesko singing phrases to convey the musical interpretation he envisioned. The resulting work is tuneful and animated, paying homage to Finkelshteyn's Russian heritage through beautiful Eastern European-inspired themes and dance rhythms, and capturing the bassist's ebullient spirit.
"If I had to describe this concerto in one word, I would say that it is very exciting," says Finkelshteyn. "I really, truly believe in this work and I hope it will become popular with bass players all over the world."
"I wanted to make the concerto very virtuosic to really showcase Lenny's talent," adds Mizesko. "We're so lucky to have him in the North Carolina Symphony."
Works for string orchestra by Dvořák and Kilar, also strongly rooted in Eastern Europe, will keep the lively atmosphere present throughout this program. Dvořák's Serenade for Strings—infused with Czech-inspired melodic motives and peasant rhythms – echoes the happiness that the composer felt at the time he wrote it, as a newlywed and new father. ("The Dvořák Serenade for Strings always makes me think of the freshness of spring time, with feelings of optimism and amiable associations," says NCS violinist Eric McCracken.) Kilar's Orawa is inspired by a river and highlands of the Slavic region, and draws on folk tunes of the composer's native Poland. Whirling melodic fragments gradually unfold and transform, with the piece beginning as a whisper and building to a thrilling finale. Orawa was received with enthusiastic praise from audience members when performed at fall 2017 concerts in Raleigh.
The performances in Southern Pines and New Bern will also include works by Villa-Lobos and Jennifer Higdon (the Raleigh Friday Favorites show is a shorter, hour-long concert). Bachianas Brasileiras No. 1 by Villa-Lobos – Brazil's foremost composer – is an homage to Bach, yet reveals the composer's own distinctive voice with its Brazilian folk melodies and rhythms. Scored for eight cellos, this will be a sonic experience not found often in live performance. To the Point – a jaunty work for string quartet by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Jennifer Higdon – also pays homage to composers that came before. It was written as a response to Impressionistic string quartets by Ravel and Debussy.
Music Director Grant Llewellyn and NCS musicians are eager to share the depth of expression found in music for string orchestra. Ticket holders are invited to a free pre-concert talk on the music, one hour before each performance. To learn more, please visit ncsymphony.org.<
The North Carolina Symphony expresses its appreciation to New Bern Concert Sponsor Northwest Creek Marina for their generous support.
North Carolina Symphony
Dvořák Serenade for Strings
Thursday, February 1 at 8pm
Pinecrest High School (Southern Pines)
Friday, February 2 at 12pm
Meymandi Concert Hall
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts (Raleigh)
Saturday, February 3 at 7:30pm
Riverfront Convention Center (New Bern)
North Carolina Symphony
Grant Llewellyn, conductor
Leonid Finkelshteyn, double bass
Villa-Lobos: Bachianas Brasileiras No. 1*
Terry Mizesko: Concerto for Double Bass and Strings
Jennifer Higdon: To the Point*
Dvořák: Serenade for Strings
*Evening performances only
Online: ncsymphony.org (TicketMaster fees apply)
By phone: 919.733.2750 ($8 processing fee applies)
About the North Carolina Symphony
Founded in 1932, the North Carolina Symphony (NCS) is a vital and honored component of North Carolina's cultural life. Its 180+ concerts and 120+ community engagement events annually are greeted with enthusiasm by adults and schoolchildren in more than 90 North Carolina counties – in communities large and small, and in concert halls, auditoriums, gymnasiums, restaurants, clubs, and outdoor settings. The Symphony's full-time professional musicians perform under the artistic leadership of Music Director Grant Llewellyn.
NCS's state headquarters venue is the spectacular Meymandi Concert Hall at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Raleigh. The Symphony's service across the state includes series in Chapel Hill, Fayetteville, New Bern, Southern Pines, and Wilmington, as well as the Summerfest series at its summer home, the outdoor Koka Booth Amphitheatre in Cary. NCS brings some of the world's greatest talents to North Carolina and embraces home-state artists from classical musicians to bluegrass bands, creating live music experiences distinctive to North Carolina.
Committed to engaging students of all ages across North Carolina, NCS leads the most extensive education program of any symphony orchestra – serving nearly 70,000 students each year. In alignment with the curriculum set by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, the Symphony provides training and resources for teachers, sends small ensembles into classrooms, and presents full-orchestra Education Concerts that bring the fundamentals of music to life. Music Discovery for preschoolers combines music with storytelling, and at the middle and high school levels, students have opportunities to work directly with NCS artists and perform for NCS audiences.
NCS is dedicated to giving voice to new art, and has presented 47 U.S. or world premieres in its history. In March 2017, NCS appeared at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., as one of four orchestras chosen for the inaugural year of SHIFT: A Festival of American Orchestras – an honor that recognized the Symphony's creative programming and innovative community partnerships.
The first state-supported symphony in the country, NCS performs under the auspices of the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. To learn more, visit ncsymphony.org.