An Interview With Redwood Symphony's Eric KujawskyWed, 10 April, 2013 at 7:52 am
|The Redwood Symphony|
When I founded Redwood Symphony in 1985, it was my intention that we would be a very non-traditional kind of orchestra. We've tried to innovate in every possible area, from programming to how we dress to concert format. In addition to standard repertoire, we feature music written by living composers, and we also do music that is generally considered too risky or ambitious for an all-volunteer group, especially Mahler symphonies, Stravinsky, Bartok, Adams, etc. Our concerts aren’t stuffy, but they are really engaging, informative and eye-opening—so to speak—and our audiences are trending younger and more casual than you’ll see at most orchestra concerts. We're attracting a healthy combination of both experienced and non-experienced listeners, all ages, who share an appetite for a range of music. Check out redwoodsymphony.org to find out what we've accomplished (mostly at Canada College; thank you, CC!), sometimes with very little financial resources. There are free downloadable tracks from our six CDs (available at iTunes and amazon.com) and a complete listing of what we've performed in the past, including many premieres and big projects. Also, please check out Redwood Symphony's Facebook page and "friend" the orchestra! It's a good way to get the latest classical music news and information on upcoming concerts and to see a bust of Beethoven in various disguises.
David Meckler: The program this Saturday, April 13 at 8 p.m., brings together arrangements of Persian music, a new symphony by American composer Christopher Theofanidis, and a practically unknown major early work of impressionist composer Claude Debussy. How did this combination happen?
Eric Kujawsky: I found the Theofanidis through a review in the San Francisco Chronicle by Joshua Kosman. He liked the piece, so I listened to excerpts on iTunes, bought it, and loved it enough to put it in front of a long line of pieces that have been waiting many years to get played! It is such a brilliant work. Its originality comes mainly from its wonderfully alive, shimmering kind of sound, not quite as much as its musical content, which is very accessible without seeming to be derivative. I believe that Theofanidis' first symphony is a potentially popular work, especially for its delightful second movement, a graceful dance done up in an enchanting, faux-Mantovani orchestration that I love because it sounds retro and new at the same time.
I know Raeeka Shehabi-Yaghmai from when she sang in our recent concert production of Mozart's great opera Don Giovanni ("Don Juan"). She brings an emotionally complete involvement into whatever she sings and I always enjoy working with her. David Garner is the wonderful composer who is bringing this music to life with a symphony orchestra. I always love to perform works in this ethnic, or folk category, as evidenced by many inclusions of Bartok, Kodaly, Lutoslawski, Lou Harrison, etc. Great stuff! These Persian songs, which we're doing with English supertitles, are dynamite in Raeeka's performance. Every rehearsal with her is a revelation.