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Orchestra of Northern New York to present concerts of ‘Romantic Giants’ in Potsdam, Watertown

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Lush, warm and dreamy music from the Romantic period will help to shake off any lingering vestiges of winter for audiences when the Orchestra of Northern New York presents its spring concert Saturday in Potsdam and Sunday in Watertown.

The “Romantic Giants” concert will feature a classic piano piece by Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943) and a well-known symphony by Antonin Dvorak (1841-1904). It also will feature the premiere of “Silver Overture,” a piece written to celebrate the orchestra’s 25 years and its years to come.

“I think this concert will be a favorite one of people for a long time” said ONNY founder and conductor Kenneth B. Andrews. “You don’t have to have any background in classical music. You will be engulfed in incredibly beautiful melodies and lush, emotional romantic music.”

The Romantic period, approximately between 1830 and 1900, celebrated nature and the spirit of the individual.

Harold Levin wrote “Silver Overture” to celebrate the spirit of the Orchestra of Northern New York, which celebrated its 25th anniversary last year.

“I wanted to do something special for Ken and the orchestra,” said Mr. Levin, whose composition will open the concert. “In this day and age, if you aren’t going under financially, that’s a big deal, especially in our business.”

Mr. Levin, the principal viola player for the orchestra, has spent his musical career as violist, conductor, composer and teacher.

“This was one of those inspirations that was kind of easy,” Mr. Levin said in a phone interview from his home in New Jersey.

He said he and Mr. Andrews started working together in 1983 at a music festival in northern Michigan and kept in touch after Mr. Andrews, a former faculty member at Indiana University and Ohio University, accepted a job at SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music.

In 1991, Mr. Levin and his wife moved to New Jersey and “within striking distance” of Potsdam and the Orchestra of Northern New York.

He said his “Silver Overture” not only celebrates the orchestra’s 25th anniversary, it “looks forward to 25 years more and however more there might be.”

“As I was writing this, I was seeing faces of people I’ve played with over the years,” said Mr. Levin. “So that part was almost easy because it made it really inspirational and exciting.”

The “Silver Overture” has an oboe-heavy selection in its middle that Mr. Levin composed several years ago but didn’t fit the overall project he was working on at the time so he “stuck it on the shelf.” He was reminded of it when he began his composition for the Orchestra of Northern New York and added it to it.

“I wanted something slower and lyrical in the center of the piece,” he said.

It will be the second piece by Mr. Levin that the orchestra has performed. In 1995, it performed his “November 22, 1963” composition.

popular piano concerto

Many people may be familiar with Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor because of all the movies it has been featured in, ranging from “Full Moon and Empty Arms” in 1945 starring Frank Sinatra to the 2010 film “Hereafter” co-produced by Clint Eastwood.

“It’s become one of the greatest piano concertos and one of the most favorite concertos of the 20th century,” Mr. Andrews said. “The melodies are haunting. Right from the opening chords, it absolutely captivates you.”

Playing piano on the Rachmaninoff piece will be Paul Wyse, associate professor of piano at Crane School of Music who has appeared in concert throughout North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. He is also a renowned portrait painter. Among other places, his works are in the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., the Steinway Hall historical portrait collection in New York City and the House of Commons of Canada.

“The piece is all over the keyboard,” Mr. Andrews said. “It takes a tremendous amount of strength to play this.”

Dvorak’s great ‘8’

Symphony No. 8 by Antonin Dvorak (duh-voar-zhock) will conclude “Romantic Giants.”

Mr. Andrews said many people may be more familiar with Dvorak’s “New World Symphony,” No. 9.

“But to me, the most soulful is number eight,” Mr. Andrews said. “It has an amazing variety of mood and incredible emotion with huge mood swings. I’ve always wanted to do this with the orchestra and I thought it was the perfect pairing with the Rachmaninoff piece.”

Mr. Andrews said that Dvorak, who was born in a Bohemian village in what is now in the Czech Republic, wrote Symphony No. 8 in the countryside of his native country.

“It was an incredibly beautiful place where he would contemplate nature and think about things,” Mr. Andrews said.

He said the piece opens with cellos.

“It just pulls you in from then on out,” he said. “Every single movement is very special, even until the fourth movement that starts with a trumpet fanfare.”

The details
WHAT: The Orchestra of Northern New York presents ‘Romantic Giants’ WHEN/WHERE: 7:30 p.m. Saturday in Helen M. Hosmer Concert Hall at SUNY Potsdam and at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Dulles State Office Building, 317 Washington St., Watertown COST: $22. Advance tickets can be purchased by following the link on the orchestra’s website at www.onny.org or by calling Community Performance Series at 267-2277. OF NOTE: Harold Levin, composer of “Silver Overture,” will host a “preconcert conversation” before the Potsdam concert. The talk begins at 6:45 p.m. at Hosmer Concert Hall.
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