Traverse City Record-Eagle

April 5, 2013

'Frostiana' sets poetry to music

BY MARTA HEPLER DRAHOS mdrahos@record-eagle.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Say “Frostiana” to singers and they’ll give you the opposite of a chilly reception.

The suite of choral art songs by one of the country’s favorite composers, Randall Thompson, is set to poetry by one of the country’s favorite poets, Robert Frost, making it a staple of the choral repertoire.

“Everyone who’s sung it remembers the first time they sang it,” said Jeffrey Cobb, director of the NMC Grand Traverse Chorale and Chamber Singers, which will perform the piece Sunday with the Traverse Symphony Orchestra. “It’s the kind of piece singers flock to.”

The suite of seven country songs is one of three works on the program, which also includes the Rachmaninoff Concerto No. 4 featuring pianist Alexander Ghindin. The Moscow-born musician is one of the best-known Russian pianists of his generation and the youngest winner of the prestigious International Tchaikovsky Competition.

Though known for his 2001 world premiere recording of the original Rachmaninoff Fourth (with the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra), Ghindin will perform the abbreviated 1941 version of the work. Unlike many piano concertos, it features plenty of orchestra rather than simply serving as a showpiece for the piano.

Ghindin leaped into the international spotlight in 1994 when he became the youngest winner of the Tchaikovsky piano competition in his hometown at age 17. His other international prizes include second prize at the Brussels International Queen Elisabeth Competition and first prize at the International Piano Competition in Cleveland and the International Piano Competition of Santa Catarina, Brazil.

A graduate of the Moscow Conservatory, he Is a regular participant in international music festivals, a soloist with orchestras around the world, and a recording artist who has released 24 CDs on major labels. He also is a frequent juror for piano competitions and is artistic director of his own concert series at one of Russia’s most distinguished concert venues: the Svetlanov Hall at the Moscow International Performing Arts Center.

TSO Interim Executive Director Krista Cooper said the combination of artists on the orchestra’s second-to-last concert of the season should make for ‘spectacular’ performances.

“Simply put, ‘Frostiana’ is poetry turned into music, while the piano concerto is daring and jazzy,” she said.

Randall Thompson, who knew and admired Robert Frost, wrote “Frostiana” to commemorate Amherst, Massachusetts’ 1959 bicentennial. The town is known for its association with Frost, who lived there for several years. Thompson’s work includes such beloved Frost poems as “The Road Not Taken” and “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” which Thompson felt would offer a nostalgic glimpse at rural New England life.

“It’s so beautiful and iconically American,” said Cobb, adding that as a composer, he often wishes he could write something like it. “Without being nationalistic, it has that very homey, comfortable, familiar feeling to it. It’s so well written and well composed that you sing it and you feel like you’ve sung it or heard it before. It’s sweet, but on other hand, it’s so deep, and there are so many opportunities for complex moments, too.”

Tickets for the concert, at 3 p.m. in Interlochen’s Corson Auditorium, are $20-$40, plus fees. They’re available at www.traversesymphony.org or 947-7120.