Brilliant musical imagery takes center stage as the Asheville Symphony performs a program of beloved classical works featured in Disney’s Fantasia films with star solo pianist Inon Barnatan. The concert takes place Saturday, February 11 at 8 p.m. in Thomas Wolfe Auditorium under the direction of ASO Music Director Daniel Meyer.
“Fantasia, Walt Disney’s exploration of favorite works of classical music paired with the genius of his illustrators, became one of the most memorable animated films of the 20th century,” says Meyer. “Disney understood the power of beautifully drawn images married to great music. Who can forget the silhouette of the great Leopold Stokowski in the first film from 1940? The Disney studio released a sequel in 2000 and I have chosen an evening of music from both films to focus on the creativity of composers who paint pictures with their highly descriptive and evocative scores.”
The evening opens with Mussorgsky’s wildly devilish A Night on Bald Mountain, as re-orchestrated by his contemporary and friend Noklay Rimsky-Korsakov after Mussorgsky’s death. The work depicts the legendary witches’ Sabbath held on Mount Tiglav in Russia every year on St. John’s Night, June 23-24. Disney’s animated visualization of the piece in the 1940 Fantasia film did not stray far from the composer’s intent, depicting a demonic figure atop a mountain summoning ghosts and witches for frenzied revelry before dawn arrives.
Next—and standing in sharp contrast to Mussorgsky’s dark and sinister imagery—is Shostakovich’s lively and charming Piano Concerto No. 2 with pianist Inon Barnatan at the keys. A brilliant, rollicking interplay between orchestra and piano, the concerto was written by Shostakovich as a birthday gift for his 19-year-old son Maxim. The bright tone and brisk and tempo are likely why Disney artists chose excerpts from this piece for the segment of Fantasia 2000 depicting Hans Christen Andersen’s tale “The Steadfast Tin Soldier.”
“One of the most admired pianists of his generation” (The New York Times), Inon Barnatan is celebrated for his poetic sensibility, musical intelligence, and consummate artistry. He was a recipient of Lincoln Center’s Martin E. Segal Award in 2015, which recognizes “young artists of exceptional accomplishment,” as well as the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant in 2009. He was also named the inaugural Artist-in-Association of the New York Philharmonic, an unprecedented three-season appointment created to spotlight an emerging artist through both concerto and chamber music performances and by cultivating a relationship between the artist, the orchestra, and the audience.
Another treat for audiences follows: Ponchielli’s beloved “Dance of the Hours” ballet from his hit opera La Gioconda. “Dance of the Hours” took on a pop culture life of its own when Disney illustrated it with a ballet sequence featuring dancing hippos, crocodiles, elephants and ostriches in the first Fantasia film. It also reached the pop charts in 1963 when parodist Alan Sherman set words to it in “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh” in which a boy describes his experience at summer camp in a letter to his parents.
The evening closes with Stravinksy’s Suite from The Firebird, a work that achieved instant success upon its debut in 1910, and which remains Stravinsky’s most frequently performed work. The Ballets Russes commissioned Stravinsky—then in his late 20s—to compose The Firebirdbased on a scenario drawn from Russian folklore. The result is a high-definition work showcasing the composer’s ability to conjure imagery and convey a dramatic tale to audiences.
Single tickets for all concerts are $22-62, depending on seating section (reduced youth pricing is available). Single tickets and season ticket packages can be purchased online at ashevillesymphony.org, by phone at 828-254-7046, or in person at the U.S. Cellular Center box office at 87 Haywood Street.
The Asheville Symphony Orchestra performs and promotes symphonic music for the benefit, enjoyment and education of the people of Western North Carolina. The ASO presents concerts in the 2,300-seat Thomas Wolfe Auditorium in Asheville’s U.S. Cellular Center. Related organizations include the Asheville Symphony Guild, Asheville Symphony Chorus, Asheville Symphonettes, and education initiatives such as the Asheville Symphony Youth Orchestra, Music in the Schools, MusicWorks!, Spotlight on Young Musicians, Symphony Talks, and pre-concert lectures.
MUSIC FROM FANTASIA
February 11, 2017 • 8 p.m.
Thomas Wolfe Auditorium
Daniel Meyer, conductor
Inon Barnatan, piano
Mussorgsky Night on Bald Mountain
Shostakovich Piano Concerto No. 2
Ponchielli “Dance of the Hours” from La Gioconda
Stravinsky Suite from The Firebird