THE BIG
QUESTIONS

This year, the Topeka Symphony is going to ask THE BIG QUESTIONS:

· Who am I?

· Where am I going?

· What happens after death?

· What is our destiny?

· What is the meaning of life?

 

But don’t worry, we won’t get too heavy. We’ll also ask THE HAPPY QUESTIONS:

· Will you dance with me?

· Will you marry me?

· Will you be mine?

 

And, since we’re an orchestra, we think we ought to ask a few ARTSY QUESTIONS:

· What inspires us?

· Does art give life meaning?

· Are we living in the best of all possible worlds?

 

We’re going to use classical and popular music to explore big issues about life and death, fate and destiny, art and inspiration, and love and marriage. Composers and artists have grappled with these issues through the centuries and offered their answers in powerful, fascinating, and thought-provoking works which we will showcase in this season of THE BIG QUESTIONS.

 

 

Kyle Wiley Pickett
Music Director and Conductor

 

 

All concerts are at White Concert Hall, Washburn University, Topeka, KS unless otherwise noted.

What is the meaning of life?
September 29, 2018

BernsteinCandide Overture
Theron KirkKaleidoscope (Commissioned for the opening
of White Concert Hall in 1968)
LisztLes Preludes
RachmaninoffPiano Concerto No. 3
with Daniel HsuBronze winner of the Van Cliburn Competition

 

Who better to ponder the meaning of life with than French poets and philosophers? We kick things off with Bernstein’s rousing and wild Candide Overture from his opera based on Voltaire’s comic philosophical novel, in which he ponders if we are living in the “best of all possible worlds.” We continue with Liszt’s Les Preludes, which was inspired by French poet Alphonse de Lamartine’s question, “What is life but a series of preludes to that unknown hymn whose first solemn note is intoned by death?” To round out our evening of big ideas, we will be joined by the 2017 Van Cliburn Bronze Medalist Daniel Hsu on Rachmaninoff’s enormous and virtuosic 3rd Piano Concerto. And, in honor of the 50th anniversary of White Concert Hall, we will bring back Theron Kirk’s Kaleidoscope, which was written for the Topeka Symphony’s first performance in the new hall.



Does art give life meaning?
November 3, 2018

MozartClarinet Concerto
with Jane Carl
HindemithSymphony: Mathis der Maler
RespighiBotticelli Triptych

 

At this concert we will perform several pieces of music inspired by great works of art. We look to the life and music of German composer Paul Hindemith to address the meaning of art in our lives. Hindemith was writing during the Nazi regime in Germany and walked a fine line between self-expression and self-preservation. In his Symphony: Mathis der Maler (Matthew the Painter), he wrote about the life of Renaissance painter Matthias Grünewald and his paintings for the Isenheim altarpiece in the monastery in Alsace. The three movement symphony moves from angelic to tumultuous as Hindemith “paints” the story for us in music. We will also perform Spring and Birth of Venus from Respighi’s charming and beautiful Botticelli Triptych, inspired by the famous paintings. We also welcome Jane Carl to the stage on Mozart’s ever-popular Clarinet Concerto.



Capitol Federal® Holiday Concert:
Christmas at the Movies
December 12, 2018

Music from your favorite Holiday filmsMiracle on 34th Street, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Polar Express, and more...
with the Shawnee Choral Society

 

The Topeka Symphony is celebrating Christmas at the movies with a concert of music from classic Hollywood holiday soundtracks! We’ll play the Christmas classics of the silver screen and favorite holiday television specials, and top it off with our annual carol sing-along to put you in the spirit of the season. We’re excited to feature the Shawnee Choral Society
as our special guests!



Who am I, and where am I going?
January 19, 2019

HumperdinckHansel and Gretel Prelude
BarberKnoxvilleSummer of 1915
with Jennifer Forni, Soprano
MahlerSymphony No. 4
with Jennifer Forni, Soprano

 

At this concert, we pose these giant philosophical questions and hear artists’ responses through poetry and prose, nostalgia and naiveté, and some of the most beautiful and haunting melodies ever written for orchestra. We begin our concert with the prelude from the opera Hansel and Gretel, a tale which has at its heart the questions, “Who am I? Where am I going?” Then we move to Samuel Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915, a reflective meditation on childhood, nostalgia, and self-awareness. Finally, we take on Gustav Mahler’s arresting and gorgeous Fourth Symphony, which muses on joy and innocence but gives way to much deeper and darker existential musings on life and death.



Pops — Will you be my Valentine?
February 16, 2019

Simply Sinatra
with Steve Lippia

 

Frank Sinatra is synonymous with jazzy, breezy, romantic ballads, and we are thrilled to bring vocalist Steve Lippia to our stage for a Valentine’s evening of Frank’s greatest hits. You won’t believe your ears it’ll be like Ol’ Blue Eyes himself came back to serenade you and your Valentine at a concert of the sweet, romantic, fun songs that Frank made famous. Don’t miss this opportunity to enjoy an evening of extraordinary love songs for a truly memorable date night with the Topeka Symphony.



Will you marry me?
April 6, 2019

Maxwell DaviesAn Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise
Young Artist Competition Winner
CoplandAppalachian Spring

 

Our pieces on this concert take us to two different locations for romance and wedding celebrations. English composer Peter Maxwell Davies’s An Orkney Wedding, With Sunrise depicts a boisterous Scottish wedding, followed by the sun coming up after the night of parties and dancing. It is one of the only pieces for orchestra that features a bagpiper in full regalia —you won’t want to miss this spectacle! Finally, we go to a small village in Pennsylvania for a wedding party in Aaron Copland’s Pulitzer Prize-winning ballet Appalachian Spring. This beautiful and moving piece depicts the excitement of the wedding, the nervousness of the newlyweds as they begin their life, and the comfort and faith their neighbors give them through the Shaker hymn Simple Gifts.



What is my fate?
May 4, 2019

BrahmsDouble Concerto
with Zsolt Eder, Violin and Eman Chalshotori, Cello
TchaikovskySymphony No. 6Pathétique

 

Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony, Pathétique, has been interpreted variously as a suicide note, a requiem for a friend, and a meditation on life and fate. The title suggests emotion tinged with suffering. The Russian Orthodox requiem makes a brief but conspicuous appearance in the first movement. The final movement, unlike many of the composer’s other works which end in pomp and celebration, ends in somber softness, suggesting the final dimming of the light and life-force. It is moving, powerful, and heart-breaking. We also feature TSO Concertmaster Zsolt Eder and principal cellist Eman Chalshotori for Brahms’s beautiful Double Concerto for Cello and Violin.