Two Bay Area orchestras are beginning their seasons this week, and turning to Tchaikovsky. Mitchell Sardou Klein and the Peninsula Symphony play his fifth, and Alasdair Neale and the Marin Symphony have his fourth, both works steeped in the composer’s looming sense of fate. They open with ominous brass, and each chart different emotional journeys.
Both orchestras welcome accomplished soloists: first up, pianist Jon Nakamatsu joins the Peninsula Symphony for their program called ‘Perfect Fifths,’ playing the fifth Piano Concerto (“Emperor”) by Beethoven. It’s the twentieth anniversary of his victory at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, and he continues to be an audience favorite as a recitalist, chamber musician, and concerto performer. There’s also an overture by Fanny Mendelssohn on the program, which Mitchell Sardou Klein says shares the spirit and style of the music of her brother Felix. Jennifer Koh will play the Barber Violin Concerto with Marin Symphony, for their first Masterworks program called ‘Romance.’ That program will also include Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain, with one of the performances falling on Halloween. Alasdair Neale wanted the big symphony to be Tchaikovsky’s Fourth symphony: “It’s such a great piece, it’s got really everything you look for. This incredibly dramatic opening, with this declamatory brass, and a sad waltz that goes through the familiar changes in temperature that Tchaikovsky does so well. I feel that Tchaikovsky is always sitting at the stove with a pot of boiling water, and he knows exactly how to turn the heat up to the right amount, and then to turn it down again. The currents are never far from the surface in that piece.”