The Oakland East Bay Symphony features an interesting pairing on Friday evening – Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F and the Symphony No 8 by Shostakovich. The guest soloist in the Gershwin concerto is Richard Glazier, and the performance is conducted by Michael Morgan, celebrating his 25th year as Music Director of the OEBS.
One of George Gershwin’s finest orchestral works, his Piano Concerto in F was written in 1926. It was commissioned by Walter Damrosch and the New York Symphony Society, and Gershwin willingly took on the challenge – partly to demonstrate that his Rhapsody in Blue hadn’t been what he called “a happy accident”. The concerto was premiered by the New York Symphony at Carnegie Hall on December 3, 1295, with the composer as soloist, and proved an enormous success. (Source: Classical Notes)
Richard Glazier’s passion for the music of Gershwin began when he was 9 years old, after he saw the film Girl Crazy. He struck up a correspondence with Ira Gershwin, and at the age of 12, young Richard met with the lyricist, and was invited to play a Gershwin tune on the piano which had once belonged to Ira’s brother, George. That signaled the start of Glazier’s dedication to the Gershwin repertoire and The Great American Popular Songbook, and he’s now considered to be one of the leading authorities on both. (Source: Richard Glazier website)
Dmitri Shostakovich described the Eighth Symphony as a poem of suffering. In public he referred to it as “an attempt to reflect the terrible tragedy of war”, however in his memoirs, he wrote of the pain he’d experienced over the lives lost during the Stalinist regime. “There were millions of them in our country before the war with Hitler began. The war brought much new sorrow and much new destruction, but I haven’t forgotten the terrible pre-war years. That is what my symphonies are about, including Number Eight.”
Written during the summer of 1943, the symphony premiered on November 4 of that year, in a performance conducted by Evgeny Mravinsky, to whom it was dedicated. Although the audience reacted positively, it was, at the time, attacked by the authorities as anti-Soviet, and it is only relatively recently that it has come to be admired throughout the world. (Source: Mark Wigglesworth)
The Oakland East Bay Symphony plays Gershwin and Shostakovich on Friday, January 23, at 8.00 pm. The performance takes place at the Paramount Theatre, 2025 Broadway, in Oakland. Richard Glazier will give a pre-concert talk at 7.00 pm on Friday, free to ticket holders. For information and tickets, visit www.oebs.org.