'On the Edge' lets orchestra loosen up

Symphony turns the dial

03. May. 2007 – At tonight's Symphony on the Edge concert, Spokane Symphony Music Director Eckart Preu will take "edge" to its extreme.


In John Cage's "Imaginary Landscape No. 4," the main instruments will consist of 12 radios. Two musicians will man each radio, one on the volume knob and the other on the tuner. Preu will stand on the podium and orchestrate the resulting cacophony.


"It's completely unpredictable," said Preu. "Nobody has any idea what it will sound like. It depends on what's on the radio."


What if some station is airing Rush Limbaugh reruns?


Then some stations, said Preu with a laugh, may have to be skipped. Music would be preferable.


This is all part of the freedom that comes with a Symphony on the Edge concert, a Spokane Symphony series which features the orchestra in a relaxed (and sometimes even raucous) nightclub setting.


"You can drink and put yourself at ease," said Preu. "And if you don't like one thing, it's not going to go on for too long."


The concert consists of 10 pieces, which range from Khachaturian to … well, KXLY-FM.


On the more traditional side, Preu has programmed the fourth movement from Sibelius' Symphony No. 2 and the first movement from Beethoven's Symphony No. 3 ("Eroica").


Traditional, yes. But anybody who thinks that equates to sedate doesn't know Beethoven.


"I want people to have the full symphonic experience with a major symphonic piece," said Preu. "I believe that Beethoven has to be in there - he's the edgiest guy we had."


The program also includes a piece called "Jazz-Fugue" by H.P. Preu. That's Eckart's brother.


"You might call it Bach on Broadway," said Preu. "It combines a very old form, the fugue, with jazz."


There will be a rendition of Pachelbel's famous Canon (you've heard it before, on ads and movie soundtracks), but with a quadraphonic twist. The plan calls for stationing string players in the four corners of the hall.


And there will be three excerpts from William Walton's "Façade," which Preu can barely describe at all.


"It's a phenomenal - something - that makes sense, but doesn't," he said. "It's really crazy and pretty far out."


Think of it almost as fractured cartoon music.


Preu's goal in programming a Symphony on the Edge concert is to "grab the audience's attention, one way or another."


"I want to attack those preconceived notions," he said. "Classics are not that easy, not so clean-cut."


The program will be rounded out with Schnittke's Concerto Grosso No. 1, fifth movement, featuring solos by William Harvey and Jason Bell; Yoshimatsu's "Threnody to Toki"; excerpts from Milhaud's "La Creation du Monde"; and Khachaturian's Masquerade Suite, first and fifth movement.

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