SoNA concertmaster stars Feb. 17, playing Bruch’s violin concerto

SoNA concertmaster stars Feb. 17, playing Bruch’s violin concerto

“Up until a few years ago, it was fairly normal for most orchestras to include new music and music by lesser-known composers as a type of ‘medicine,’” says Paul Haas, music director of the Symphony of Northwest Arkansas. “As in, ‘You may not like this as much as the Beethoven, but it’s good for you!’ And most of that music was written by white men, if not dead, maybe just old, white men.

“The oft-heard excuse was always, ‘woman and people of color, as composers, really never had the advantages of white people, so their music wasn’t up to the same level,’” Haas explains. “But now, thanks to the tireless work of many people within the music field who knew better, we as a field have no more excuses. All of these great works are now being unearthed — and performed!”

The next SoNA performance, at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 17, is titled “Defying Expectations,” and it includes “the incredible Farrenc Symphony in G Minor to honor a woman, Louise Farrenc, who rebelled against societal expectations of women in the mid-1800s, becoming a renowned pianist and the first female professor at the Conservatoire in Paris,” Haas says.

“We are thrilled to be able to bring this outstanding and passionate music to you, some 177 years after Farrenc wrote it,” Haas adds. “I honestly can’t believe it fell out of the repertoire, as she is a phenomenal composer. We at SoNA can’t wait to share it with our audience.”

The performance also includes Darius Milhaud’s “Le Boeuf sur le toit,” music written for Jean Cocteau’s farcical pantomime about a nonexistent speakeasy in America during Prohibition, performed for the first time in Paris in 1919.

“Milhaud’s score is kaleidoscopic in color, with multiple keys and tonalities,” Haas says. “And it’s just plain fun, featuring incredibly virtuosic passages for the entire orchestra, all the way through.”

Finally, wrapping up the concert, will be Max Bruch’s romantic Violin Concerto in G Minor, featuring SoNA’s concertmaster, Winona Fifield.

“Winona is a joy to work with,” Haas says. And “it’s a rare treat to hear [her] play a concerto.

“Her job as concertmaster is to lead — and really galvanize — the entire orchestra from her chair,” he explains. “She and I work together, from our different vantage points, to create the final product our audiences hear. On any given day, she can be seen dictating which way the strings’ bows move, controlling the length of specific notes, speaking to the whole orchestra about how to match each others’ sounds, and — of course — communicating with other principal musicians as we play, guiding the ensemble from within. We’re lucky to have her!”

Fifield, according to a biography on the Glenn Douglas Winter Chamber Music Festival website, began playing violin at the age of 3, studied at Juilliard and, after high school, was awarded the Ira Gershwin Scholarship to study at Indiana University. She has led the Seattle Symphony as concertmaster, the BBC Philharmonic and Rotterdam Philharmonic as co-leader, and has played with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Houston Grand Opera Orchestra, Houston Ballet Orchestra, Albany Symphony, Tulsa Symphony, Tulsa Opera Orchestra, and Shaker Mountain Opera Orchestra.

“Winona is one of those rare musicians who grips your heart with her playing — she’s so musical — and I know everyone in the audience is going to feel like they’ve witnessed something truly extraordinary,” Haas says.

“In the end, ‘defying expectations’ is really what SoNA and I are all about,” he adds. “We want to bring you in with the tried and true — what you expect from a high-caliber symphony orchestra — but then we want to have fun with you, exposing you to all kinds of music and ideas you never would have seen coming. And I really think that’s why our audiences are so committed to us and the experiences we provide.”




‘Defying Expectations’

WHEN — 7:30 p.m. Feb. 17

WHERE — Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville

COST — $36-$61


FYI — Ticketholders are also invited to arrive early at 6:30 p.m. for Creative Conversations with SoNA Music Director Paul Haas.

Categories: Music