Versatility — as well as genius — is the hallmark of the composers whose works will be performed this weekend in Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra’s second Masterworks program of the 2017-18 season.
The concerts, which will be performed Saturday night and Sunday morning at The Forum in downtown Harrisburg, include standout compositions by a trio of child prodigies: Sergei Prokoviev, Ludwig van Beethoven and Georges Bizet.
These are men whose resumes include some of history’s best-known operas, symphonies, concertos and ballets.
Joining Maestro Stuart Malina and the orchestra for Beethoven’s Triple Concerto in C major will be the highly regarded Mendelssohn Piano Trio, now in its 20th year. Members are HSO Concertmaster Peter Sirotin and principal cellist Fiona Thompson, joined by gifted pianist Ya-Ting Chang, Sirotin’s wife.
Malina called Beethoven’s celebrated work a “wonderful piece” that is unusual in that it expands the concerto format to include three solo instruments rather than the normal one. The three-movement work, composed in 1803, is the only concerto the prolific Beethoven wrote for more than one solo instrument.
Sirotin said the HSO concerts will mark the first time the Mendelssohn Piano Trio has played this piece during its two decades of existence.
“We have a large repertoire,” he said. “We’ve recorded something like 16 CDs, but we’ve never done the Triple Concerto. It’s essentially a large and very sophisticated piece of chamber music.”
Sirotin said the trio can’t wait to tackle it with Malina and HSO.
“It is unique,” the violinist said of the work. “It’s one of most light-hearted works from Beethoven, filled with witty, humorous sophistication, but it’s very challenging as well.”
Preceding the Triple Concerto will be Prokoviev’s Sinfonietta, written a century after Beethoven’s work when the Russian composer was in his late teens.
This five-movement orchestral work, which Malina described as delightful, is essentially a short symphony scored for a small orchestra. It is performed less often than Prokofiev’s similar Symphony No. 1, known as the Classical Symphony.
After intermission, HSO will play Bizet’s famed Symphony in C, which the French composer wrote in about a month in 1855, when he was just 17.
While Bizet is better known for operas such as “Carmen,” this four-movement symphony is nonetheless considered an impressive work for a composer of any age.
That’s a sentiment Malina shares.
“This is one of the great works for chamber orchestra of the entire Romantic period,” said Malina, now in his 17th season as HSO’s conductor.