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Harping On About the Symphony’s Second Show

by John Showalter | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Music | October 31st, 2018

Showalter - music - Yolanda Kondonassis by Laura Watilo Blake

The 2018-2019 season of the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra’s Masterworks series is underway. After a breathtaking first concert of the season featuring not one but two world-renowned soloists, the second will be bringing in one of its own. What makes this particular concert and soloist interesting is that it marks a first for the FMSO. “To my knowledge we have not had an internationally renowned harpist as a guest artist before,” said Linda Boyd, executive director of FMSO.

The harpist in question is Yolanda Kondonassis. To say that she plays the harp well is an understatement. She is one of the world’s premier solo harpists and widely regarded as the currently most recorded classical harpist. On top of these she heads the harp departments at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and the Cleveland Institute of Music. Boyd noted, “We actually don’t have any professional harpists in Fargo-Moorhead-when an orchestral piece calls for a harp we bring in musicians from Minneapolis-so this is a real treat.”

Naturally, with such a renowned harpist visiting as a guest artist the concert will feature pieces that showcase her instrument of choice. The concert will begin with the Second Movement of the Concerto for Flute and Harp by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, a composer who needs no introduction. This piece will also feature FMSO’s talented principal flutist Debora Harris. While it is not one of his more performed compositions, Boyd said that it, along with the other pieces to be performed, are “real musical gems”.

The second piece of the evening is the regional premiere of a new harp concerto co-commissioned by the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra along with the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra, the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, the Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra, the Lansing Symphony Orchestra, and the Oklahoma City Philharmonic Orchestra. The piece is composed by two-time Grammy and Pulitzer Prize winner Jennifer Higdon, who is one of the most performed living American composers working today. Higdon herself dedicated the piece to Kondonassis. Critical reviews of the piece from its world premiere earlier this year are already highly favorable.

After intermission, the final piece of the evening will be Symphony No. 4 “The Inextinguishable” by Carl Nielsen. This late 19th and early 20th century Danish composer is considered a cultural hero in his native Denmark and their finest composer. He composed his fourth symphony shortly after the conclusion of World War I, and in his program notes for the symphony referred to the “elemental will to live,” the “inextinguishable” of the title. Boyd said the piece “often features musical ideas being tossed around the various sections of the orchestra, akin to the intensity of a sandbag line.”

As always, those who show up at least 45 minutes before concert time will be able to sit in on an informal pre-concert talk adjacent to the lobby. During intermission and after the concert Kondonassis will be selling recordings of her music as well.

Those who are interested can also attend Urban Overture at the downtown Radisson on Wednesday the week of the concert. Kondonassis will be performing at Urban Overture as well, “which will be an amazing opportunity to hear a world-class artist performing on this incredible instrument,” said Boyd. That event is free to people in their 20s and 30s and an excellent idea for a date night.

“It’s a good thing music doesn’t contain calories-because there is a LOT of rich and delicious fare on this concert program,” said Boyd. Excellent music isn’t fattening so one might as well indulge themselves, and the F-M Symphony Orchestra is an excellent place to do so.


Urban Overture
Wednesday, November 7th, 5:30-7:00
Downtown Radisson, 201 5th St N, Fargo


FM Symphony
Saturday, November 10th, 7:30 PMSunday, November 11th, 2:00 PM

NDSU Festival Concert Hall
Tickets $30-38 adult, $12-15 student or 701-478-3676

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