You’d be hard-pressed to find any American city where the weather in February beats the paradise we enjoy in Sarasota. Our sunshine and warm breezes are two of the extra perks that Sarasota Orchestra’s winter guest artists enjoy. We can guess, then, that the last week in February may be a welcome respite for Maestra JoAnn Falletta, who will be returning to sunny Sarasota from her home in Buffalo, where she has served as music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra for more than 20 years.
Last appearing here in 2019, she’ll be leading Sarasota Orchestra in two Masterworks performances at the Van Wezel on February 26 and 27, with a colorful program that also features jazz/classical pianist Aaron Diehl.
Titled Fairy Tales and Fireworks, the program opens with Maurice Ravel’s colorful Mother Goose Suite. Originally written as a gift for the children of dear friends, Ravel’s five “bite-size” movements depict Beauty and the Beast and Tom Thumb, among others. The final movement, “The Fairy Garden,” is an absolutely exquisite depiction of Sleeping Beauty being awakened by the Prince that inevitably elicits a communal “aaahh” from the audience.
The fireworks will begin when Aaron Diehl arrives onstage for a performance of George Gershwin’s jazzy Concerto in F. Diehl was something of a jazz child prodigy, being asked to tour Europe with Wynton Marsalis when he was only 17. Marsalis called him “The Real Diehl,” and indeed he is. His extraordinary technical skill at the piano, combined with his mastery of jazz idioms, make him the perfect artist to bring the Gershwin concerto to life.
Written not long after Rhapsody in Blue, the Concerto in F takes classical forms and infuses them with Gershwin’s infectious rhythms and melodies. With movements based on a Charleston rhythm, blues, and ragtime, the work never fails to thrill. In the hands of Aaron Diehl, it should be a showstopper.
The program concludes with Sergei Rachmaninoff’s technicolor orchestral showpiece, the Symphonic Dances. The final work of the great Russian romantic was originally envisioned by Rachmaninoff as a ballet score, and the highly rhythmic and splashy movements were clearly designed with dance in mind.
Rachmaninoff was a master of drama, and each of the three movements elicits a powerful mood. From the pulsating energy of the first movement through the second movement’s diabolical waltz and a kaleidoscopic final movement full of snappy, Spanish rhythms, this work is Rachmaninoff at the peak of his powers. Whether he knew that it was to be his final work, we do not know, but there could certainly be no more rapturous end to a career in music.
With multiple Grammy Award–winner JoAnn Falletta on the podium and Sarasota Orchestra’s power at her disposal, this promises to be a concert that sends the audience back out into our warm February breezes both wowed by the music and grateful for world-class musicians who bring it to life.
To learn more and purchase tickets to Masterworks: Fairy Tales and Fireworks, visit Sarasota Orchestra’s website, or call the Box Office at 941-953-3434. All programs and featured artists are subject to change.