By Paul Hyde: June 29, 2016
It’s a battle of the batons.
Two of South Carolina’s most prominent orchestral conductors will offer competing Oktoberfest concerts in the Upstate this week.
Both programs have one thing in common: music by German composers.
Edvard Tchivzhel will swing the conductor’s baton in the Greenville Symphony Chamber Orchestra’s annual Oktoberfest concerts, Oct. 7-9, featuring music of Handel, Brahms and Beethoven.
“It’s the best of German music,” Tchivzhel said.
Morihiko Nakahara, conductor of the South Carolina Philharmonic, will lead Anderson’s GAMAC chamber orchestra in an Oct. 7 program of works by Bach, Mendelssohn and Beethoven.
The Greenville concerts take place at the Peace Center’s Gunter Theatre while the Anderson program will be performed in the Rainey Fine Arts Center at Anderson University.
Brahms, Beethoven and beer
The Greenville Symphony Chamber Orchestra’s program features the essential three Bs of a classical music Oktoberfest: Brahms, Beethoven and beer.
The concert opens with a spirited suite by Handel and closes with a complimentary beer-tasting hosted by Thomas Creek Brewery.
Handel, who spent most of his career in England but was born in Germany, wrote his celebratory “Music for the Royal Fireworks” for Britain’s George II in 1749.
The original orchestration for a huge outdoor performance (with fireworks) called for 24 oboes, 12 bassoons, nine trumpets, nine horns and three kettledrums, among other instruments.
“History says it was a successful performance but the pavilion for the fireworks caught on fire and it created a panic,” Tchivzhel said.
Tchivzhel expects a much-better outcome with the orchestration Handel created for indoor performances, without fireworks.
“It’s a great piece, very festive to open the chamber season,” Tchivzhel said.
The work gets its characteristic brilliant sound from the use of two piccolo trumpets, which look much like regular trumpets but are smaller and pitched higher.
The program also features Brahms’ “Variations on a Theme By Haydn,” a 1873 work in the form of theme and variations based on a chorale.
“It’s incredibly inventive,” Tchivzhel said. “The character of each variation is quite different.”
The program concludes with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 8.
Beethoven’s odd-number symphonies (Nos. 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9) are famously stormy and conflict-ridden while the even-numbered symphonies, such as the Eighth, are written with classical grace and wit.
“Every even-numbered symphony is more sunny, peaceful and humorous, reminding us of the style of Haydn and Mozart,” Tchivzhel said.
After the Beethoven, everyone is invited to the lobby for free beer.
A date with the GAMAC orchestra
For Nakahara, the first performance with a new orchestra is like “a first date.”
“There’s a high level of anticipation and maybe a little nervousness,” Nakahara said. “It’s always exciting to work with a new orchestra.”
For his first date with Anderson’s chamber orchestra, Nakahara and the musicians will take a pleasant stroll in the countryside, figuratively speaking, with Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony, known as the “Pastoral.”
The work paints a cheerful musical portrait of bucolic scenes and a rustic celebration — only briefly interrupted by a storm.
It’s a perfect piece as the seasons are changing in the Upstate, Nakahara said.
“It’s a good time to reflect on nature at this traditional harvest time of fall,” he said.
South Carolina may not be well known nationally for its classical music scene, but the orchestras in the state are, in fact, top-notch, said Nakahara, who has served as music director of the South Carolina Philharmonic since 2008.
“It’s a well-kept secret in some ways,” Nakahara said. “It’s astounding the quality of our orchestras and the number of activities in which they engage. It speaks to the people who run these organizations and support them.”
GAMAC, short for the Greater Anderson Musical Arts Consortium, is hosting guest conductors this year following the retirement of founding conductor Alex Spainhour, who led the orchestra for 25 years.
Also on Friday’s GAMAC program is Bach’s Concerto No. 1 for keyboard, with pianist Matthew Carden Ganong as soloist.
The work is accompanied by strings, so Nakahara wanted to include a piece that showcases the GAMAC orchestra’s winds as well. Fittingly, the ensemble will perform Mendelssohn’s “Nocturno for Winds.”
“It’s a very charming piece to compliment the Bach,” Nakahara said.
In addition to serving as music director of the South Carolina Philharmonic, Nakahara is celebrating his 14th year with the Spokane (Washington) Symphony Orchestra. He joined the Spokane orchestra in 2003 as assistant conductor, later becoming resident conductor.
With a charismatic presence on and off the podium, Nakahara is well known for his innovative and audience-friendly approach to concert planning.
Nakahara’s recent and upcoming guest conducting engagements include appearances with the Buffalo Philharmonic and symphonies of Oregon, Charleston, Chattanooga, Lansing, Peoria and Green Bay, as well as with the Chicago Pro Musica.
A native of Kagoshima, Japan, Nakahara holds degrees from Andrews University and the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.
Nakahara actually lives in Virginia, near Washington, D.C., where his wife works. Nakahara divides his time primarily between his Virginia home, Spokane and Columbia.
For the latest in local arts news and reviews, follow Paul Hyde on Facebook and Twitter: @PaulHyde7.