Musical Royalty: Ann Arbor Symphony performs "Ludwig and the Kings"
On Saturday, Oct. 21, the Ann Arbor Symphony will present a program called “Ludwig and the Kings.” “Ludwig,” of course, represents luminary German composer Ludwig van Beethoven. But who is the King in question?
“Growing up in Israel, I had daily bible studies and was fascinated with the complex characters of some of the prophets and kings," said conductor Arie Lipsky, who has led the symphony for 17 seasons. "This concert presents a rare musical outlook on King Solomon, known to be the wisest man on earth.”
Each piece of music in the concert centers on King Solomon, but from various perspectives and genres of music. “This is a wonderful stirring collage of musical contrasts, which I'm eager to share with our audience," says Lipsky. “For a baroque gem, we’ll be joined by a chorus for excerpts from the oratorio Solomon by Handel. Then, a romantic and evocative cello concerto named Schelomo (Solomon in Hebrew). This was the final work of composer Ernest Bloch’s Jewish Cycle written in 1915. Bloch named it a Hebraic Rhapsody in which the cello captures the cantorial spirit of King Solomon. I have had the pleasure of playing and teaching this beautiful piece many times. Then we added a jazz rendition of “King Solomon” by the grand Duke of American jazz composers -- Duke Ellington.”
Saturday’s program is capped off with the Eighth Symphony by Ludwig himself, a short, experimental work that is perhaps the perfect one to illustrate why Lipsky refers to Beethoven as the "wisest composer on earth."
“Perhaps the best adjective to describe Beethoven music is revolutionary," says Lipsky. "He is the composer who transitioned classical-era music to the romantic the era. He added drama, emotion, and meaning to music and, in that sense, he is wise.”
Lipsky was born in Israel’s capital, Haifa, and showed great promise from an early age on both the cello and flute, before going on to a highly successful career as a conductor, flutist, and cellist. For this concert, he passes the cellist baton, as it were, to 18-year-old cellist Zlatomir Fung, who will play Bloch’s Schelomo. Fung lives in Massachusetts and has won many international competitions, such as the 2016 George Enescu International Cello Competition and the 2015 Johansen International Competition for Young String Players. He has an Ann Arbor connection, too: Fung studies at the Juilliard School with Richard Aaron, who is also a professor of cello at the University of Michigan. Lipsky is excited to bring Fung’s perspective to the piece, especially because he has been doing perhaps more research than most soloists might, in preparation.
“This is going to be a unique musical experience since, in addition to his virtuosity, he has been attending Jewish worship services in order to capture the unique cantorial spirit of Schlomo,” Lipsky says. “Zlatomir is a curious bright young man, and he felt, unsolicited, that attending Jewish services will help him understand and perform Schelomo in a more authentic way.”
Emily Slomovits is an Ann Arbor freelance musician, theater artist, and writer. She plays music with her father and uncle (aka Gemini) and others, is a member of Spinning Dot Theatre, and has performed with The Encore Musical Theatre Company, Performance Network, and Wild Swan Theater.
Ann Arbor Symphony performs the program "Ludwig and the Kings" at Saturday, Oct. 21 at 8 pm at the Michigan Theater, 603 E. Liberty St., Ann Arbor. For tickets and more information, visit a2so.org.