By Robert E. Martin
As the Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra reaches the midpoint of their highly successful and ambitious 88th season, which has proven to be both inventively engaging to long-standing supporters and equally accessible to broader audiences less familiar with the riches of Classical music, the stage is being set on Saturday, February 3rd for showcasing the unmistakable melodic majesty of composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky in a creative carousel titled Tchaikovsky’s Masterpieces, which will take place at Saginaw’s historic Temple Theatre in Downtown Saginaw.
Additionally, this performance will expose audiences throughout the Great Lakes Bay region and beyond to the talents of world-class pianist Alessio Bax, winner of numerous international competitions and featured in NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts, who will join the SBSO in performing Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1, Symphony No. 4 in F Minor, and Cossack Dance.
Born in 1840 and until his death at the age 53, Tchaikovsky was a Russian composer of the Romantic period and was also the first Russian composer whose music would make a lasting impression internationally. Tchaikovsky wrote some of the most popular concert and theatrical music in the current classical repertoire, including the ballets Swan Lake and The Nutcracker, the 1812 Overture, the Romeo and Juliet Overture-Fantasy, several symphonies, and the opera Eugene Onegin, to name but a few.
A true protégé, Tchaikovksy was only 4-years old when he began composing, and like Beethoven, Mahler, and John Lennon, he liked to walk two hours every day and also enjoyed mushroom picking. A big fan of Shakespeare, he wrote many pieces inspired by his plays like Hamlet, The Tempest, and Romeo & Juliet.
According to SBSO Maestro Fouad Fakhouri, one of the reasons he wanted to showcase Tchaikovsky’s work is because of the composers gifted talents as a melodist. “Because our goal with this season is to engage as many audience members as we can, especially those lagging post-covid, what makes Tchaikovsky interesting is that he wrote such beautiful melodies.”
“His works are very dramatic and well-designed and most people know his music without even knowing him. He wrote things like the Nutcracker, which we hear over Christmas time, and Swan Lake, and his ability to create beautiful melodies and weave them into these textures of symphonic magnitude is what makes him interesting.”
“If you look at the top ten Classical composers, he is definitely right up there and is always engaging for the audience. I hate the phrase ‘easy listening’, but for those not that familiar with the world of Classical music, he is very accessible to audiences.”
When asked about why he selected pianist Alessio Bax as the soloist for Tchaikovsky’s Masterpieces, Fakhouri says he was privileged to work with this phenomenal artist a few years back in Texas and was eager to re-engage with him again.
“Alessio is a brilliant Italian pianist who lives in New York and is one of those soloists who is innately talented,” reflects Fouad. “There is something special that comes out with his music and I wanted to partner with him again. There are thousands of professional pianists who can perform these pieces, but what I love about Alessio is his sense of connection. Sometimes when a conductor works with a certain soloist it’s like working together without being on the same page, similar to going out on a date with someone that you don’t share the same chemistry with, which is why some dates work and some don’t.”
“With Alessio we share the same chemistry and look at music similarly,” he continues. “I never look at music as an athletic event and what you get often with a lot of these soloists that are very talented is that the orchestra becomes a mere backdrop for their performance, or they are not actively listening to what the orchestra is doing and reacting with them. It’s funny, because sometimes excellent musicians forget some of these basic fundamentals or don’t care about interacting with the orchestra because of how they prepared their work, so you have to follow the soloist and with that you don’t have the excitement and alchemy of a great performance.”
“What I love about Alessio is that he reacts and hears what the orchestra is doing, so it’s a give and take situation where we work together. The energy and magic coms from the way he works together with the orchestra, and he is a gifted talent who performs all over the United States as well as internationally. Being Italian he also spends a lot of the summer in Italy performing at festivals in Florence or Tuscany.”
“I am very excited about this upcoming performance and urge people to experience the musical richness to be harvested from some of Tchaikovsky’s greatest works,” concludes Fakhouri.
“As noted earlier, his music is very accessible and what’s funny is that when you go to college and the topic of great composers comes up, Tchaikovsky is always sort of put down in the seriousness of academia because his melodies are so popular and memorable, as if there cannot be any great depth or significance in his work because it is so popular and accepted; but to my mind, the fact that he is both a popular and a very capable composer is what doesn’t make him merely a good but a great composer.”
The Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra’s performance of Tchaikovsky’s Masterpieces: An Evening with Alessio Bax will take place on Saturday, February 3rd at 8:00 PM at Saginaw’s Temple Theatre in Downtown Saginaw. Tickets start at $14.00 plus service charges and can be purchased by phoning 877.754.7469 or visiting TempleTheatre.com
9th February, 2024