By Tabitha Hogue
It must have been a dream come true for the young, little known composer Igor Stravinsky when the famous Russian ballet master, Sergei Diaghelev, commissioned him to compose a ballet for the Ballets Russes in Paris in 1909. Out of this bold partnership was born the famous Firebird ballet, which draws on Russian folklore to relate how an enchanting and beautiful bird, the titular character of the ballet, brings about the downfall of a cruel ogre-like villain, Kastchei the Deathless. Kastchei is notorious for capturing beautiful young princesses and turning into stone the knights who come to save them.
The Santa Monica Symphony (SMS) will be performing the Firebird Suite at its upcoming free concert on Sunday, May 28, at 7 p.m. at Santa Monica High School’s Barnum Hall.
Maestro Guido Lamell describes the Firebird Suite as “one of the most dazzling and colorful orchestral works of all!”
“I was looking for a worthy finale to cap a great season of orchestral spectaculars,” Lamell says. “When my wife suggested the Firebird, I jumped on the idea immediately! There’s just no greater orchestra showcase anywhere!”
In addition to the Firebird, guest soloist Ronald Leonard, the former principal cellist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, will perform Sir Edward Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E Minor.
Leonard was a colleague of Lamell’s in LA Philharmonic for many years; Lamell regards him as “a very prestigious, very great player.”
Leonard is an accomplished soloist, orchestral musician and chamber musician, who has performed many times as a soloist with the LA Philharmonic and has participated in chamber music performances with such renowned artists as Rudolf Serkin, Isaac Stern, Richard Goode, Itzhak Perlman, and Yo-Yo Ma.
Additionally, in honor of Memorial Day, the SMS is extending an invitation to area veterans to attend the concert and will perform the Armed Forces Salute. The Salute pays tribute to all five branches of the military, incorporating each of the branches’ official songs: “The Caisson Song” (Army); “Anchors Aweigh” (Navy); “Marines’ Hymn” (Marines); “Semper Paratus” (U.S. Coast Guard); and “Off We Go into the Wild Blue Yonder” (Airforce).
The Memorial Day Weekend Concert has traditionally been one of the Symphony’s most popular and well attended events, and SMS staff recommends arriving early to find a seat. In addition to the performance, a pre-concert lecture presented by conductor and keyboardist Stephen Karr will be offered at 6 p.m. at Barnum Hall which is located at 600 Olympic Blvd.
All Santa Monica Symphony concerts are offered with free admission. For parking information or any other questions, please see the Symphony website at smsymphony.org or call 310.395.6330.