HSO kicks off season with classics

The Holland Symphony Orchestra will open its 2021-2022 season with guest artist pianist Ralph Votapek.

Classics I, New Worlds, will include three orchestral masterpieces 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 25, at Hope College’s Jack H. Miller Center, 221 Columbia Ave.

“HSO is most appreciative of the working relationship with Hope College Music Department and Chair Huw Lewis for assisting HSO in acquiring an additional rehearsal for the guest pianist Ralph Votapek,” says Kay Walvoord, HSO President and CEO. “Being able to have an additional evening in this superior acoustical space is highly beneficial for the orchestra.”

The talk that usually precedes the concert will not take place. A pre-concert video, artist biographical information, and program notes available on the  website one week before each of the three Classics concerts.

Classical Chats will continue at Freedom Village, (145 Columbia Ave.) at 3 p.m. on the Thursdays prior to each of the three Classical Concerts. Classical Chats are open to concert ticket holders. 

COVID protocols

Masks will be required at all HSO concerts. (All plans are subject to change relative to pandemic restrictions.) 

Tickets are $22 per adult and $5 per student — kindergarten through college. 

Season tickets are available from the symphony office by phone at 616-796-6780 or the website at  hollandsymphony.org. The five-concert season ticket subscription includes Classics I, II, III, Holiday and Family.  Adults are $95 and students are $25. First-time subscribers can purchase season tickets at 30% off the  regular price. Seating at the Concert Hall at the Jack H. Miller Center will be assigned.  

The full season sponsor is David P. Roossien and the artist sponsor is West Michigan Community Bank. Logo  sponsors for Classics I include Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge, First National Bank of Holland, Sight Eye Clinic, and Chamber Music Festival of Saugatuck. Artist flowers are provided by Huisman Flowers (Eastern Floral Lakeshore). 

The music

The performance will open with William Grant Still’s “Darker America.” Still, an American composer who lived in the early 1900s, broke musical barriers. He wrote pieces that blended European art music with African popular and folk music as well as jazz, blues, and other forms.

Soloist Ralph Votapek will play Beethoven’s second piano concerto. Votapek is professor emeritus of piano at the Michigan State University College of Music. He is the gold  medalist of the first Van Cliburn International Piano Competition and winner of the prestigious Naumburg Award.  Votapek has been featured 16 times as the Chicago Symphony’s guest soloist, has played with the Philadelphia Orchestra,  the New York and Los Angeles Philharmonics, the Boston Pops, the Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Houston, Dallas, St.  Louis, National Symphonies, and other top ensembles. He is equally celebrated as a solo recitalist throughout the United  States and has performed repeatedly in Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Chicago’s Orchestra Hall, and the National Gallery  in Washington. Guest appearances with the Juilliard, Fine Arts, New World, and Chester String quartets highlight his  extensive chamber music experience. 

Votapek was the soloist on Arthur Fiedler’s last Boston Pops recording, a Gershwin program released on CD by  London Records and most recently available as a part of the Deutsche Grammophone CD titled “The Arthur Fiedler  Legacy.” In recent years he has recorded prolifically for the Ivory Classics and Blue Griffin labels. His albums have been  critically acclaimed by Grammophone, American Record Guide, International Piano, and Fanfare magazines. 

The concert will conclude with Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9, “From the New World.” Dvorak was a well-known nineteenth century Czech composer who was invited to New York to help launch a music school. In his  homeland, Dvorak had cultivated a reputation for writing music that reflected the folk music of his people. While in New  York he was homesick, but had his spirits lifted during a drip to a Czech colony in Iowa. He heard a lot of American  music in his time here—from first nations folk songs to African American spirituals, and he encouraged American  composers to embrace these traditions in their music. He reflected this in his ninth symphony, “From the New World.” It  features beautiful tunes and rhythmic vitality throughout the work and includes the well-known melody that has  transformed into the song, “Goin’ Home.”

Read more articles by Andrea Goodell.