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The Anchorage Symphony Orchestra Presents Sentimental Journey

Susan Wingrove

Susan Wingrove

PHOTO: Courtesy of ASO

Anchorage, Alaska – January 2, 2013 – The Anchorage Symphony Orchestra is starting the New Year with an evening of powerhouse performances.  On January 19th the ASO is proud to take the audience on a Sentimental Journey.  Featured works include a charming musical interpretation of the locomotive - Honeggar’s Pacific 231 and Tchaikovsky’s monumental Symphony No. 6, an emotional exploration of man and his destiny.  Taking center stage is hometown favorite Susan Wingrove performing a piano concerto by preeminent American composer, Jennifer Higdon.

A stellar pianist and award-winning educator, Susan Wingrove will dazzle audiences with this concerto which the composer likens to an Olympic sport, and reviewers hail as an exhilarating ride.  Susan won’t soon forget the number 19,615 after her preparation for the Higdon piano concerto, for that’s how many notes she will play during her performance. 

But those who know Susan, know she is up to the task.  Garnering a reputation for her spot-on accompaniment and flexibility, she is sought after by numerous groups – amateur and professional - throughout the state of Alaska to provide the accompaniment – the musical foundation upon which so many Alaskan performers build and shape their performances.  While she is often seen in the background, Susan is no stranger to performing center stage, and her performance on January 19th will be her second as a featured soloist with the ASO (audiences will recall her March 2003 performance of the Lowell Liebermann’s Piano Concerto).   

Susan has been the principal keyboardist for the ASO for over 30 years . She also writes the Classic Concert program notes and provides pre-concert lectures prior to each ASO concert. Before retiring from the Anchorage School District in 2011, Susan worked as an acting and choir teacher at Bartlett High School, and as the ASD coordinator for the Arts Partnership Program (a teacher-training collaboration between the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts and the ASD). In 1990, her work in arts education earned her a Governor's Award for the Arts and in 1998 she was a finalist for Alaska Teacher of the Year.

When asked how she chose the Higdon Piano Concerto, Susan commented, “When Randy and I discussed the possibility of doing a concerto this season, I was committed to doing a work by a woman composer….I have always found it perplexing as an artist and audience member that hearing music by women is still a rare event on orchestra and chamber music concerts. Women have been writing worthy music for hundreds of years, but have had to combat prejudice and a lack of access to education to pursue their art. We decided that an immersion with this challenging, engaging composition by the gifted Jennifer Higdon would be an exciting musical adventure for our orchestra and audience.”

It has been an exciting and challenging musical adventure for Susan as she prepares for an almost non-stop performance of 19,615 notes in 30 minutes. Pulitzer Prize and Grammy Award winner, Higdon writes about her Piano Concerto, “There are a lot of notes here. As a flute player, I was fascinated to explore what a pianist can do with such a large instrument and so many keys! I felt the weight of history as I wrote the piece – the vast repertoire featuring the piano. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever written…It took six months, writing 6-7 hours every day.  I used paper, my head and the computer. It is an Olympic event for the pianist. I decided to compose a lyrical work that would emphasize the piano’s ability to shape elegant lines and one that contains a great number of cascading notes which would rebound with a velocity that cannot be matched by another instrument. So this is a concerto in every sense of the word – it is a virtuosic duel between soloist and orchestra. It is every bit a test of the soloist who tackles it and hopefully gives us a chance to admire the power of this instrument that is within itself an orchestra.”

Closing this Sentimental Journey is Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 – “Pathetique”. Tchaikovsky conducted the premiere of the piece, hailed as his best work, only nine days prior to his sudden death. The second performance took place less than two weeks later at his memorial service. While composing his sixth symphony, Tchaikovsky described it as “the best, especially the most open-hearted of all my works….I consider it the best of all my works to date. I love it as I never loved any of my musical children.”

He spent five years composing his Sixth Symphony. His final three symphonies are considered united by a common idea of man and his destiny.  In his Sixth, his final and greatest work, Fate is victorious.

Guest conducting this concert is Mark Russell Smith.  Anchorage audiences may remember Smith who was a finalist for the ASO Music Director position in the early 1990s.  Smith is the Music Director of the Quad City Symphony and is the Artistic Director of Orchestral Studies at the University of Minnesota. He has served as Director of New Music Projects of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Music Director of the Richmond Symphony and Cheyenne Symphony and Associate Conductor of the Phoenix Symphony.

Sentimental Evening - Saturday, January 19, (8pm) in the Atwood Concert Hall, Alaska Center for the Performing Arts. Infrared headphones for the hearing impaired are available concert night from the House Manager on the orchestra level. Tickets:  $20-$42/Adult; $10-$21/Youth; $18-$37.50/Senior. Military, student and group discounts available. To purchase tickets, visit the CenterTix Box Office at the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts or www.centertix.net or call 263-ARTS (2787), toll free at 1-877-ARTS- TIX.

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