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The Commons
The Arts

Windham Orchestra's 'Russia' concert will showcase legendary composers

Originally published in The Commons issue #445 (Wednesday, February 7, 2018). This story appeared on page B3.


BRATTLEBORO—We may think of Russia as the cold, frozen wasteland of Dr. Zhivago, but the Windham Orchestra’s upcoming Russia is “exotic, warm, and fantastical,” according to a news release.

The concert, which spotlights richly textured works of two renowned Russian composers, is set for Sunday, Feb. 11, at 3 p.m. at the Latchis Theatre on Main Street.

Acknowledging that almost daily news headlines have focused our attention on Russia in recent months, Windham Orchestra Musical Director Hugh Keelan said in a news release that choosing Russia as the theme for this concert comes not from the country’s current politics, but from its legendary composers’ ability to transport listeners to faraway lands and undiscovered emotions.

The program begins with Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade,” inspired by the storyteller from One Thousand and One Nights, the work that also includes Ali Baba and Aladdin. The music recounts how the beautiful Scheherazade is forced by a cruel Sultan to save her own life by telling wondrous tales each night.

The work, says Keelan, demonstrates Korsakov’s yearning for “bright colors and warmth, beyond Russia’s snowy landscape.” A solo violin — played by Michelle Liechti — is the ‘voice’ of the imperiled teller of tales, and adds to the richness of the piece.

Also on the program is Prokofiev’s wondrous Romeo and Juliet, its themes portraying the tragedy of Shakespeare’s star-crossed, doomed lovers.

“This is not merely teenage drama, but a mighty suffering” Keelan says, and although the work was composed to accompany a ballet, it is a powerful work sans the dance and another example of the romance and richness of the Russian composer’s genius.

The concert will conclude with two brief pieces by Bach, a tribute to a longtime Windham Orchestra violinist, the late Sarah Kemble, who Keelan describes as “extraordinarily good-humored and a highly valued member of this orchestra.”

The cost of admission is a donation of any amount. For more information, visit the Brattleboro Music Center website at bmcvt.org.

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