There are times, especially in the wake of national tragedies such as the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, when it seems there may be no end to the political strife and divisiveness in this country.
But there also is music, which has a profound capacity to bring people together in shared beauty and emotion. That’s what Orli Shaham, the acclaimed pianist who will be joining the Bangor Symphony Orchestra next weekend, believes. She will be playing Bela Bartok’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in E major, which the Hungarian composer was still finishing when he died in 1945.
“I find that it’s such a basic and deep form of human communication,” Shaham said of music, adding that the Bartok concerto is especially powerful to her. “There’s absolutely no way somebody could step away from the second movement, which is very prayerful, very intimate. There’s no way somebody could step away from that with hatred for humanity.”
The pianist, who has been hailed by critics on four continents, is based in New York City and St. Louis, Missouri. She has performed with high-profile musician groups including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Orchestre National de France. She also has worked with renowned conductors and musicians such as Sir Neville Marriner, the pianist Emanuel Ax and violinist Gil Shaham, who also happens to be her brother. Orli Shaham also is known for Baby Got Bach, the interactive concert series for young children that she launched in 2010. She came by her passion for teaching about music naturally.
“When I was a young kid growing up in Israel, my father was a physicist with a very popular TV show on Israeli television, talking about science for the layperson,” she said. “It’s only recently that I realized that’s what I do with music. I love sharing music and talking about music and introducing people of all ages to music.”
Shaham is looking forward to performing the Bartok concerto, which she called a “perfect little masterpiece.” She’s also glad to be performing it with BSO conductor Lucas Richman, with whom she has collaborated a number of times, and in Maine, a place she loves.
“I’m just looking forward to being in what we know is the most beautiful spots on the planet,” she said.
That beauty is steadfast, even in the wintertime, Richman said. That’s why he selected one of the lesser-known works of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky to round out the program. “Winter Dreams,” Symphony No. 1, is one of the earliest notable pieces by the Russian composer.
“It begins with a shimmering atmosphere in the orchestra that just draws us into the snowy landscape of winter,” the conductor said. “It’s a piece that’s unfortunately not heard or performed as often as one might think. It’s really a wonderful work.”
Richman and the soloists will present a pre-concert lecture about the music they will be playing an hour before the concert begins.
“We’re breaking down some of the mystique and snobbery that has unfortunately been attached to classical music,” he said.
Also, he believes it can be helpful for attendees to familiarize themselves with the music before the concert starts.
“If you’ve had the chance to hear the music in advance, one can definitely hear the piece on a different level,” Richman said. “There are little snippets of melody you can start following as they transform in the piece. It’s kind of like watching a musical movie, in that you’re following a character in its development through introduction and conflict, all the way through the final resolution.”
The Bangor Symphony Orchestra’s performance of “Winter Dreams” begins at 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 25 at the University of Maine’s Collins Center for the Arts in Orono.
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