By Tabitha Hogue
The Santa Monica Symphony (SMS) is offering a free concert of great symphonic masterworks at 7 p.m. this Sunday, October 22 at Barnum Hall on the campus of Santa Monica High School. The performance will open with Russian composer Anatoly Lyadov’s intriguing tone poem, The Enchanted Lake.
SMS Music Director and Conductor Guido Lamell describes the work as, “a colorful and poetic piece that creates a deliciously tranquil mood.”
“It evokes images of a mythical landscape with a lake scene, but it’s given an enchanting character through the dreamlike orchestral sounds that were composed to describe it,” Lamell said. “It’s very beautiful and very evocative.”
The meditative, soothing character of the Lyadov piece stands in marked contrast to the repertoire for the rest of the concert, which will be powerful and dramatic. Next on the program, the SMS will be performing Sergei Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet Ballet Suite, which Lamell discovered at age 11 and describes as the first classical music piece that he went “absolutely crazy for.”
“I was staying at a home in Austria at that time and I was going through their record collection. I found a record that had a very dramatic picture of a scene from Romeo and Juliet, not knowing anything about it at the time,” he recalls. “So I put it on their record player and was captivated from the first moment by the power, the amazing colors, and the harmonies in this music. I played it again, and again, and again.”
Lamell describes this as a turning point in his musical tastes, as prior to this he had not been a particular fan of classical music, even though he was studying the violin at the time. He has been looking forward to conducting the Prokofiev piece for a long time and is excited for the opportunity to perform it with the orchestra.
Also notable is that the Romeo and Juliet Ballet Suite contains something rare in the symphonic repertoire, namely, a beautiful saxophone part. This will be performed Sunday by SMS saxophonist (and flutist) Sean Stackpoole.
Sunday’s concert program will close with Dmitri Shostakovich’s grand Fifth Symphony, which was written at a time when Shostakovich had fallen out of favor with Stalin and was on potentially precarious political footing. Lamell describes the piece as “incredibly powerful and brilliantly conceived.”
“With a superficial hearing, it seems to celebrate the Soviet Union with brilliant fanfares and tremendous percussion and thereby mollify Stalin,” he said. “But the inner message was one of rebellion and to the more sophisticated listener, the undertones of sarcasm and revolt are there.”
Lamell notes that the Fifth Symphony is quite technically difficult. But after four seasons of playing under his baton, he believes the orchestra is up for the challenge.
“I’ve been holding off on many things (prior to this) but the orchestra has grown in experience,” he noted. “Also many of our players have been together with me now for a long time and we’re able to do things now that we couldn’t do before.”
All Santa Monica Symphony concerts are free to the public and have open seating. Visit www.smsymphony.org or call or text 310.395.6330 for more information.