The New American Philharmonic celebrates Russian music in two shows this weekend. The community orchestra plays music by Rimsky-Korsakov and Tchaikovsky in a program at both Northridge High School and Weber State University.
The program features the talents of Shi-Hwa Wang, violin professor at Weber State University. He is no stranger to the philharmonic, having served about 15 years as concert master.
"Eventually, I was too busy and had to stop, but I have known this orchestra since I first came here 20 years ago," Wang said. "I think they have grown a lot. I have had many students playing in the orchestra, and it is always good to see what they will do."
Wang will be featured on Tchiakovsky's sole violin concerto. He said it is a popular piece, but among the most difficult in the violin repertoire.
"Only a handful of players can handle this piece," he said. "Just to play it takes years of study. He (Tchaikovsky) put so many difficult passages in there."
The piece was not well-received at first -- not by critics, nor by master violinist Leopold Auer, whom Tchaikovsky planned to dedicate the piece to, and who he hoped to perform it at its debut. Auer refused both the dedication and the opportunity to perform.
"He (Auer) was an important person in music, so this was a big deal at the time," said Wang. "But gradually, people liked it over time, and later, even Auer accepted the dedication and championed the piece."
Wang doesn't think Tchaikovsky wrote only one violin concerto because it was received badly at the beginning.
"Every important composer wrote at least one violin concerto, it is sort of expected -- but even one is a difficult feat. Beethoven, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, they only wrote one, as did many others. I think it is because they were not violinist themselves, so for them to keep dedicating their time to an instrument that isn't their own didn't make a good deal of sense."
Wang likes the fact that community symphonies such as New American offer a chance to play for those who have studied and loved music.
"In this country, we have probably 1,000 community orchestras. Most are volunteer-based, similar to the New American."
One reason community orchestras have gotten stronger, Wang says, is that, especially in the past 30 years, colleges are producing many more trained orchestra musicians than there are jobs to support them.
"Not all of them can make it to the top. Most have other vocations. But symphonies like the New American offer them an outlet -- if you learn to play at that level, you want to play. This gives you a chance to work with others doing the same.
"I had my first rehearsal with them last night for this program, and I must say, they are quite capable."
- WHO: The New American Philharmonic, with Shi-Hwa Wang
- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. today
- WHERE: Northridge High School, 2430 N. Hillfield Road, Layton
- TICKETS: Free, for details go to www.newamericanphilharmoic.org
- ADDITIONAL PERFORMANCES: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Browning Center's Austad Auditorium, Weber State University, 3848 Harrison Blvd., Ogden. $5.50; $4.50/students and seniors, available from the WSU box office, 800-WSU-TIKS.