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From Russia With Love

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From The Beatles to Mozart, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra has explored an incredibly diverse array of music over its 85-year lifespan, reaching a vast spectrum of music lovers along the way. Continuing down the same comprehensive path in 2015, it will venture into uncharted territory, presenting a special series of Russian-themed concerts.

"In the last decade, the ISO has programmed festivals typically based on one composer, but this is the first three-week festival dedicated to a particular country and culture," explains Director of Artistic Planning, Zack French.

Beginning today the ISO presents Fantasy, Fate and War: A Midwinter Russian Music Festival. Paying homage to the musical genius of Russia's most outstanding composers, the series will begin with Rimsky-Korsakov's "Scheherazade" (Jan. 23-24), continuing on with Tchaikovsky's "Symphony No. 5" (Jan. 30-31) and then the ISO premiere of Shostakovich's "Symphony No. 7" (Feb. 6).

By making deeply engaging interactions with these works, French and Urbański ultimately hope audiences can go home with a better understanding of Russia's rich culture. - COURTESY OF THE INDIANAPOLIS SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
  • Courtesy of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra
  • By making deeply engaging interactions with these works, French and Urbański ultimately hope audiences can go home with a better understanding of Russia's rich culture.

"As a result of its history, Russia has yielded unparalleled passion and beauty in its symphonic music, which is why it is so appealing not only to our audiences, but for our players, who must match that intensity in order to generate a convincing performance," French says.

Faced with the impossible task of representing Russia's entire music history in a matter of weeks, the symphony chose to instead touch upon three key themes, explains ISO Music Director Krzysztof Urbański. These include fantasy through the lens of Rimsky-Korsakov's "Scheherazade," fate through the lens of Tchaikovsky's "Symphony No. 5," and war through the lens of Shostakovich's "Symphony No. 7" ("Leningrad").

All of these selected pieces are unique in their own way, Urbański explains, with flashes of compositional brilliance shining through in each. Nevertheless, a "Russian feeling" will remain consistent throughout the entire series of concerts, he says. Adding to this immersive atmosphere will also be elements such as pre-concert Russian chamber music by ISO musicians and Russian-inspired food and drinks, such as the Moscow Mule.

Throughout all of its programming, the symphony strives to attract new ears in the community by presenting music of all varieties, and this is once again the case with the Midwinter Russian Festival. Spokesperson Jessica Di Santo says, "At the ISO, we have been very proud of our effort to deliver the finest quality orchestral performance, no matter the genre. Music is universal in how it can speak to a broad audience." Continuing down this path, French sees listeners making their own personal connections with the composers represented in this series.

"They each have their own style and personality that many of us can relate to: the grandeur and storytelling talents of Rimsky-Korsakov, the tenderness and passion of Tchaikovsky, and the edginess of Prokofiev and Shostakovich, who tend to draw more upon nationalistic inspirations in their compositions," he says.

Today the ISO presents Fantasy, Fate and War: A Midwinter Russian Music Festival. - JOANNA URBANSKA
  • Joanna Urbanska
  • Today the ISO presents Fantasy, Fate and War: A Midwinter Russian Music Festival.

By making deeply engaging interactions with these works, French and Urbański ultimately hope audiences can go home with a better understanding of Russia's rich culture after taking in one or all of these symphonic concert experiences. Urbański concludes, "I hope we will take our listeners to the fabulous world of Russian music, and that they will be enchanted."

For more information on the Midwinter Russian Festival, visit the ISO's website.

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