No one who has lived in Fargo for any length of time has to be told how bitterly cold it can get here during the winter. As much as we might complain about the cold temperatures, the biting winds, or the copious amounts of snow, we can’t really bring ourselves to hate the winter season.
Perhaps that’s why the City of Fargo began its Frostival, encouraging people to get out and enjoy themselves despite the cold. And of course, the coldest season of the year has had no small influence on art and music, which brings us to the next concert in the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra’s Masterworks Series, “Frostival Finale,” which just so happens to coincide with Frostival.
“Frostival Finale” also marks the last solo performance of concertmaster Benjamin Sung with the F-M Symphony Orchestra, who has been in said position since 2007. In those years he has traveled between his family in Florida and the orchestra performances with conductor Chris Zimmerman here in Fargo. The incredibly talented violinist will be leading a smaller ensemble of strings and harpsichord during the second piece of the evening, in keeping with the traditional setup of a chamber orchestra, which usually performs without a conductor.
Though this season has seen a lot of performances of lesser-known and infrequently performed (but by no means less talented) composers, the first half of “Frostival Finale” will be comprised of pieces that are bound to be very familiar to even those with only a limited exposure to classical music. As executive director of the FM Symphony Orchestra Linda Boyd put it, the evening will be a combination of both “serious and lighter pieces.”
To start off the evening, the orchestra will perform selections from 19th century Russian great Tchaikovsky’s ballet The Nutcracker. The selections that will be played are all concert favorites bound to be familiar to even those who have never set foot in a concert hall, like “Le Chocolat,” “Le Arabe,” “Trepak,” “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies,” “Waltz of the Flowers,” and “Pas de Deux.”
The second piece of the evening is also a concert hall favorite, the “Winter” movement from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. As mentioned before, this piece will be played by a smaller ensemble, reflecting the chamber orchestra that the piece was originally written for, with concertmaster Benjamin Sung leading the performers.
Vivaldi, of course, wrote movements for all four of the seasons, but it only makes sense, in keeping with the theme of the concert, to play the “Winter” movement in particular, which is perfectly capable of standing on its own as a wonderful piece of music.
After intermission will be the final piece to be performed for the concert, one that more casual audiences will likely not be familiar with. The piece is Symphony No. 11, The Year 1905, by 20th century Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich.
In the past, the F-M Symphony Orchestra has performed Shostakovich’s 5th and 10th symphonies, but this will be the first performance of the 11th.
For his inspiration, Shostakovich took the 1905 worker revolt against the Czar, one of many politically turbulent events in 20th century Russian history that helped pave the way for the later Bolshevik Revolution and the founding of the Soviet Union. The piece also weaves in several different Russian folk songs as part of its composition as way to “lay the groundwork” for the piece, as Boyd put it.
Since American audiences are less likely to be familiar with the occurrences of the 1905 revolt, Boyd selected pictures from that point in Russian history to be projected during the piece, to coincide with the different movements of the symphony. In particular, Boyd said that the audience will find the movement portraying the massacre at the Winter Palace, that resulted from the revolt, “overwhelming.”
Those who are interested will also be able to go to the “Urban Overture” on Wednesday of the week of the concert. The event, which runs from 5:30 to 7 at the Radisson and is free and open to the public, will feature hors d’oeuvres and refreshments, as well as violin performances from Benjamin Sung. It is a smaller, more intimate event, so if you’re looking for something to do on date night or even just want to have a more up-close-and-personal encounter with the musicians, then this presents the perfect opportunity.
Though it might be cold outside, it is certainly worth your time to bundle up and head down to the orchestra. You will get to hear some great music that takes its inspiration from this chilly part of the year (in the comfort of indoor heating to boot!).
And be sure to enjoy the other events going on during the Fargo Frostival as well. You might want to bundle up for that.
IF YOU GO
‘Frostival Finale’ Saturday
January 27, 7:30pm
Sunday January 28, 2pm
NDSU Festival Concert Hall, 12th Ave N & Bolley Drive
by C.S. Hagen
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