The 39th season of the Glacier Symphony and Chorale continues Feb. 19-20 with Enigma, featuring a world-premiere performance of an exciting piece for piano and orchestra by contemporary composer, Matthew Mason. Titled “Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini,” the work will be performed by Los Angeles-based concert pianist Roger Wright.
The ongoing celebration of Maestro John Zoltek in his 25th year as music director and conductor continues as the concert opens with his evocative dance-inspired orchestral composition, Hemispheres. Also on the program is an audience favorite, English composer Sir Edward Elgar’s beloved Enigma Variations, a fascinating musical portrait of Elgar’s friends and loved ones.
As for the world premiere, Zoltek acknowledges the audience may be wondering how “Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini” qualifies as a world premiere. “Well, the truth is, you are probably thinking about another piece of the same name composed in the 1930’s by Sergei Rachmaninoff,” he explains.
“Although this piece is based entirely on the same theme that was used by Rachmaninoff, the pieces could not be more different. The first time I heard it I was electrified by the driving rhythms and energy that Mason has employed in exploring Paganini’s theme.” While informed listeners will almost certainly recognize the theme, “this piece has a unique twist on that melody we all know,” adds the Maestro. “It is a very demanding work for both the orchestra and soloist that I know the audience will thoroughly enjoy.”
A Texas native, Matthew Mason is an award-winning composer and pianist whose works combine high craft, rich harmony and memorable melody with an accessible and exciting rhythmic vitality. He studied piano performance at both the University of Houston and the University of Southern California. He began writing music at the age of 11 and continued to compose throughout his academic career.
Mason has had works commissioned by festivals and piano competitions and has also been active in the commercial composition world. He has received three Telly awards for his commercial compositions, including the 2012 award for his original compositions created for a series of short films detailing the humanitarian efforts of Habitat for Humanity.
Pianist Roger Wright is no stranger to audiences in the Flathead, having performed at Festival Amadeus and Rebecca Farm under the baton of Maestro Zoltek. Also Texas-born, Wright began his piano studies at age 12, making his concerto debut at 18 with the Houston Symphony. He, too, is a graduate of the University of Houston and also Rice University.
In 1998 he captured international attention when he won the 24th Frinna Awerbuch International Piano Competition in New York City, which led to his debut at Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall. In 2000 he did it again, which led to a CD of his performances at the competition. He was one of only 32 competitors selected worldwide for participation in the 11th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition and twice received the coveted fellowship award at the Aspen Music Festival. Hailed by critics for his powerful technique and singular musical interpretation, Wright has appeared with orchestras across the globe and been the featured performer on national radio broadcasts in the U.S., Canada and Australia.
“This will be a superb concert for anyone who wants to experience some real thrills and excitement of a symphonic performance,” says Zoltek.
The concerts begin at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 19, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 20, at the Flathead High School Performance Hall in Kalispell. Due to the number of COVID cases in the Flathead Valley, masks are strongly recommended to help protect orchestra members, staff, patrons, and the community’s health care workers.
Tickets are available by calling the box office at 406-407-7000 or online.