From baroque legend Antonio Vivaldi to opera composer Giuseppe Verdi, to compostional poet Ottorino Respighi, Italy’s influence on the world of classical music is as coveted as their presence in the culinary world.
In honour of such Italian greats, the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra presents Viva L’Italia — the fourth performance of the Chase Wines Masterworks series — in Kelowna Feb. 16, Penticton Feb. 17 and Vernon Feb. 18.
“This is the perfect Valentine’s Day gift for anyone who forgot it’s Valentine’s Day,” said OSO music director Rosemary Thomson. “It’s a good show for someone who might be new to classical music.”
The performance kicks off with the slow, dramatic intro of Verdi’s opera Nabucco — one of the renowned composer’s most well-known compisitions, if not by name, then sound – and quickly builds into orchestral thunder.
“There’s just a great feeling with it,” Thomson said. “It’s a fun piece and a great way to open the show.”
Verdi, born 1813 in rural Italy, rose to fame through his operas that championed the Risorgimento movement, better known as the unification of Italy, and served a brief term as elected politician.
“In his day, he was like the national hero of Italy,” Thomson said. “His music kind of brought the country together and became like the anthem of Italy. He’s still super popular around the world.”
Picking up the brass alongside the OSO in Viva L’Italia is German-born Canadian trumpeter Jens Lindemann. Now based in Los Angeles, Lindemann is the only solo brass player to be awarded with the Order of Canada and has performed at Carnegie Hall and for Queen Elizabeth II.
“Lindemann is a thundering trumpet player,” Thomson said. “There’s nothing he can’t do on the trumpet.”
To showcase the UCLA teacher’s natural flair and virtuosity, Lindemann will ring through three short concertos: two baroque pieces and one finely-tuned concerto, crafted specifically for Lindemann’s talent.
Armed with a piccolo trumpet, the smallest of it’s kind that rocks one octave higher than its standard-tuned cousin, Lindemann will perform a baroque concerto by Tomaso Albinoni.
“When its in the hands of a master, the sound (of a piccolo trumpet) is beautiful,” Thomson said of the high octave achieved on the brass. “It’s never shrill.”
Joining forces with Lindemann on Vivaldi’s Concerto for Two Trumpets is OSO principal trumpet Audrey Patterson.
“She’s really an amazing trumpet player,” Thomson said of Patterson while humming to the tune in perfect pitch. “It’s hard for people to recognize music in print. Once they hear it, they go, ‘Oh. I’ve heard this.’”
However, Lindemann’s expertise doesn’t remain solely in the world of classical music, Thomson said.
Written by Alan Gilliland specifically to showcase Lindemann’s talent, Dreaming of the Masters rounds off the trumpeter’s three concertos with the OSO.
“This piece has nothing to do with Italy,” Thomson laughed. “He (Gilliland) wrote it specifically for Jens knowing what he can do virtuosically. It was sort of a tip of the hat to past greats of the jazz world.”
Like a true jazz standard should, Dreaming of the Masters leaves room for Lindemann to imrprovise, bending the tune to the current vibe.
“It’s really a lot of fun,” Thomson said. “I can’t wait to dig into this piece.”
As Lindemann closes off his jazz swing, the Okanagan Symphony Youth Orchestra will grace the stage alongside the OSO, for a grand total of 120 players, to end the performance with Respighi’s grandiose compositional poem, Pines of Rome.
The 22-minute, four-movement tone poem tells stories of Italy through the common-ground of pine trees, beginning with Pines of Villa Borghese, followed by The Pines Near a Catacomb, The Pines of the Janiculum and finally The Pines of the Appian Way.
Moreover, Respighi’s composition marks the high point in the OSYO program: the opportunity for kids to take up their instruments alongside professionals.
“It would be like starring a pee-wee team in the NHL,” Thomson said, adding that the kids learn both consciously and through osmosis. “The kids bring this wonderful energy. It’s palpable. It changes everything and the audience rides the waves.”
Prior to the OSO performance in Kelowna Friday night, 250 middle school band students have the opportunity to participate in 75-minute clinics in their instrument of choice led by OSO and OSYO players. While the clinics are currently only available in Kelowna, Thomson said she hopes to expand the program to Penticton and Vernon as well.
Hours after the clinics are done and the OSO and OSYO closes the show with The Pines of the Appian Way movement, Thomson said she hopes the performance will be a memorable one.
“I think this is a show that will be really delightful,” Thomson said. “By the end of that piece, we will blow the roof off the theatre.”
The Okanagan Symphony Orchestra presents Viva L’Italia at the Kelowna Community Theatre Feb. 16 at 7:30 p.m., Penticton’s Cleland Theatre Feb. 17 at 7:30 p.m. and the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre Feb. 18 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $56.25 adult, $49 senior and $26.75 student and are available at okanagansymphony.com.