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'Classical Contrasts' closing out Livermore-Amador Symphony season

Soloist Mok performing Beethoven to highlight concert at Bankhead

"Classical Contrasts," the season finale of Livermore-Amador Symphony's 65th regular season, will take place June 1 at Livermore's Bankhead Theater.

The concert, with music director Lara Webber conducting, will include Igor Stravinsky's Suite No. 2 for chamber orchestra, Robert Schumann's Symphony No. 4 and Ludwig van Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4, featuring soloist Gwendolyn Mok.

Russian-born Stravinsky orchestrated Suite No. 2 for chamber orchestra while living in Switzerland during the period 1914-20.

"This little suite is quirky and fun," Webber said. "The opening march grabs our attention with a fanfare in the brasses. The waltz is elegant and a bit dizzying with the perpetual pulsation of two clarinets. There is a delightful polka, and then an exuberant final 'gallop.'"

Pianist Mok will be the soloist for Beethoven's Concerto No. 4. She is coordinator of keyboard studies at San Jose State University and one of the leading experts on the piano music of French composer Maurice Ravel, including having studied under Lithuanian-born pianist Vlado Perlemuter, who had himself studied with Ravel.

Mok has performed with many international orchestras and appeared in major concert halls in America, Europe and Asia in addition to smaller venues like the Bankhead.

"I have performed at the Bankhead Theater (before) and love it," Mok said. "This will, however, be my first time performing with the Livermore-Amador Symphony and Lara. I am looking forward to it greatly."

Webber said she is delighted that Mok will perform with the local symphony.

"We are thrilled to have the extraordinary opportunity to work with Gwendolyn Mok. Collaborating with an artist of her musical brilliance and stature is a privilege," Webber said.

Mok described Beethoven's concerto as an example of how "Beethoven's music reflects the human condition so beautifully."

"In this particular concerto, he speaks to a greater spirit," Mok said. "The concerto opens in a unique way in that the pianist speaks alone in the softest and most intimate way. The second movement is amazing in that the pianist is pitted against the orchestra in the style of call and response. The orchestra begins in full voice, answered by the quiet but confident piano part.

"This 'conversation' continues until the orchestra is tamed into joining the pianist in a softer dynamic. The last movement is a rondo and is charming and virtuosic at the same time. Pianist pitted against the orchestra," Mok added.

Schumann's Symphony No. 4 was composed in 1841, but revised in 1851. Webber said the symphony "reveals the range of emotion and inner conflict the composer experienced throughout his troubled life."

"Within one turn of phrase we can hear jovial energy turn to a great conflict or threat. Anxiety can evolve into flirtatious love ... all within a few phrases. It's beautiful and profoundly personal," Webber said.

The concert begins at 8 p.m. June 1, preceded by a prelude talk from 7-7:30 p.m. The Symphony Guild will host a post-concert reception in the lobby.

For ticket information, visit www.bankheadtheater.org, go to the Bankhead ticket office at 2400 First St. in Livermore or call 373-6800.

Editor's note: Patricia J. Boyle, immediate past president of the California Writers Club Tri-Valley branch, has been writing about the Livermore-Amador Symphony for seven years.

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