Latvian National Symphony Orchestra (LNSO)
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Leonard Bernstein’s Wonderful Town is musical theatre at its best – it echoes the heightened emotions, the slightly hectic and decidedly happy mood of the festive season in anticipation of the page of the calendar flipping over to a new number. This performance will be in the capable hands of Andris Poga, the Artistic Director of the LNSO. The sparkling quartet of soloists includes Kim Criswell who has sung the role of Ruth with the Berlin Philharmonic and Simon Rattle, Ieva Parša and Intars Busulis who performed in this musical when it was staged at the Cēsis Castle Park venue some years ago as well as the Lithuanian bass-baritone Kostas Smoriginas, already well-loved by Latvian audiences, who, as an opera and oratorio singer is one of the brightest rising stars in opera houses and concert halls all over the world. As the musical’s staging consultant is Viesturs Kairišs, there is reason to believe that the State Choir Latvia will be expected not only to sing beautifully, but also move around a little. Irrepressible joy springs forth from the never-ending conga-line, the delicious swing, the famously limping frolic of The Wrong Note Rag and the other well-known tempos of this musical. Hearing it all like this, it seems quite remarkable that the musical was created in a mere five weeks, the opening date being a factor beyond the control of the composer. Just like in the times of Rossini and Donizetti, with all the charm and effervescence of a classical comic opera. Welcome to America of the 1930ies!

The United States of America. On the one hand – Disney, Gershwin, Rogers, Sinatra and others. On another – Salinger, Wilder, Kerouac, Ives and others. We need that America, but then again, the other one too; however the other one often is too little. That’s why on the 27th of November, in the Minster Hall, we will hear music that has been created by a mathematician, Eliot Carter, a campaigner against whaling George Crumb, the sentimental lyricist Samuel Barber, the melancholic sentimentalist Lowell Lieberman as well the Brazilian classic Villa-Lobos who will join the group.

The flautist Irbe Urbāne is a skilled and experienced interpreter of contemporary music, as is the pianist Agnese Egliņa who we know well as a contemporary pianist and a seeker of adventure. At the concert on the 27th of November, we will have a chance to evaluate how the strong and forthright young cellist, Dace Zālīte, blends into this duo.

December night by the fire. Snow covers the windowsill, and ice flowers, the window panes. In the story book however, its summer. Rainbow fish flutter in Lyadov’s enchanted lake. The dishevelled Kikimora and the naughty Baba-Yaga come to visit the Water Spirit. It’s the end of summer. In his clarinet concert, Tchaikovsky (Boriss) delights in the crystal structures of snowflakes. Another Tchaikovsky (Peter) hitches a sled to the horses of the imagination, and the page of the winter section is turned over in the book of fantasy. 

On the LNSO conductor’s podium this evening we will see Denis Vlasenko. Riga’s audiences had their first chance to evaluate this conductor in autumn 2013 when he conducted two performances of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin at the Latvian National Opera, which was also his first chance to conduct an opera by a Russian composer. In 2008 however, he was the first Russian conductor to conduct at the mecca of Rossini’s opera music – the Pesaro Festival. Denis Vlasenko has conducted opera productions in Mexico, Tokyo and Valladolid; conducted performances in Bari and at St Petersburg’s Mikhailovsky Theatre and conducted symphony music concerts in Italy and Russia where his principal position is as the second conductor of the New Russia State Symphony Orchestra directed by Yuri Bashmet. The Eugene Onegin performances left the impression that Denis Vlasenko knows precisely what he wants and knows how to achieve it. We await with great interest how the wintery forms of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 1 will take shape in his hands.
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