The Merced Symphony Association will open its 54th season Saturday at the Merced Theatre with the American premier of Concierto de Rialp composed by world-renowned Spanish classical guitarist Jaume Torrent.
Torrent, a native of Barcelona, Spain, has toured extensively throughout Europe, Latin America, Russia and the United States. He is well-known for leading the guitar group "Quartet Tarrago."
On Thursday, Torrent visited Merced College's music department, where he presented a seminar to guitar students. He was joined by international violinist Joseph Gold, who is famous for his repertoire of 19th-century violin virtuosos Paganini, Sarasate, Bazzini and others, according to a Merced College press release.
"Jaume performed with me for the first time at a concert a few of years ago, and I immediately fell in love with his music and style," Music Director Henrik Hansen said.
"He's deeply rooted in his Spanish culture and you can hear all this in his new piece. It's very accessible, and yet it contains a symbiosis between tradition and more modern musical language. You might think that every note that could ever have been composed has already been done.
"But in Jaume's Concierto de Realp it is as if he bares his soul for us, and we get a peek into the heart of a man who brings his own personal meaning to his Spanish heritage," Hansen said.
Merced Symphony board President Judy Edwina Smith is thrilled to open their season with such a special premier in the restored building.
"This is quite a coup for the orchestra," Smith said. "That the piece will be presented in the beautiful, newly restored theater only adds to the specialness of this concert."
The evening will begin with the charming and lighthearted overture to Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss Jr.
"In this overture you'll find everything that Vienna is famous for," Hansen said. "The Czardas, peasant dances, sultry melodies, romance and -- of course -- the Viennese waltz.
"Masterfully woven into a superb musical collage, it represents the musical themes throughout the operetta, which true to form is about deceit, love, and reconciliation," Hansen said.
Gold, a virtuoso violinist from the Bay Area who studied under the legendary Jascha Heifetz, will join Torrent on Saturday in performing a second original Spanish composition, "Paganini in America" for guitar, violin and strings.
The concert will close with Tchaikovsky's 4th Symphony.
"It is some of Tchaikovsky's best music that captures the audience from the opening moments of the heroic brass to the fast and furious finale," Hansen said.
The piece was the composer's expression of the torrent of feelings he experienced after the ending of his disastrous marriage.
"True to life, most artists seem to struggle with finding the ultimate happiness and no one was able to express this better in music than Tchaikovsky," Hansen said. "I believe this is something we can all relate to.
"Life has its ups and downs with fleeting moments of happiness and sadness, but we all persevere. This was also clear to Tchaikovsky, and the last movement brings home all the various emotions of the symphony in a triumphant conclusion.
"This is truly a magnificent symphony that will take you on an exciting emotional roller-coaster ride," Hansen said.
Concert Chairperson Pat Winston is looking forward to a concert that travels musically from the halls of Vienna to the natural wonders of Spain before culminating in the the drama and passion of Russia.
"This is an evening of unique communication between the audience and the Merced Symphony musicians," Winston said. "A unique experience that comes from being transported by great music to another more spiritual world."
Kickoff at restored venue
The Merced Symphony will begin its 54th season Saturday at the newly restored Merced Theatre downtown. The concert begins at 7:30 p.m., with a pre-concert reception at 6:30 p.m. in the theater lobby. Tickets are $35 for adults and $10 for students age 25 and under with proper student ID. Tickets are available at the Multicultural Arts Center downtown, Merced Floral on Park Avenue, Goldsmith Jewelers at the Raley's center, Big O Tires on 18th Street, and Christina's Fine Clothing in the Bear Creek Galleria, from any MSA Board member, online through the Merced Theatre or at the box office. For more information, visit www.mercedsymphony.org or call the MSA office at (209) 383-3277.