“Exquisite, bewitching, and ravishing” - that's how the Minneapolis Star Tribune has described the playing of Gina DiBello, an accomplished soloist who appears with the West Suburban Symphony to perform these two sizzling violin works. DiBello joined the first violin section of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in April 2013 after four seasons as principal second violin of the Minnesota Orchestra. A Chicago native, she comes from a musical family: her father plays bass in the CSO and her mother violin in the Lyric Opera Orchestra. Read her full bio here.
Spanish virtuoso violinist and composer Pablo Sarasate (1844-1908) wrote Zigeunerweisen (Gypsy Airs) in 1878, inspired by two Hungarian gypsy tunes. He premiered it that year in Leipzig, Austria, and it has remained wildly popular with violinists and audiences ever since - with grand melodic lines, emotional drama, and dazzling violin pyrotechnics. Romanza Andaluza, in contrast, is a warm-souled rhapsody from one of his collections of Spanish dances.
Russian Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) wrote the music for the ballet The Firebird as an unknown young composer; its 1910 premiere in Paris made him an instant and enduring celebrity. The music combines exotic orchestral wizardry with the vitality of Russian folk music, creating a dazzling, evocative effect. The ballet’s story blends two Slavic folk tales: one about the sorcerer Kaschei the Deathless and the other about the Firebird, a beautiful glowing creature who brings both blessings and threats. In the ballet, the Firebird helps a prince overcome obstacles to free his beloved from Kashchei's evil spell.
In 1749, King George of England commissioned George Frederick Handel (1685-1759, shown here without the customary wig) to write music for a fireworks celebration to mark the Treaty of Aix la Chapelle that ended the War of Austrian Succession. At the King’s insistence, Handel wrote his music only for wind instruments, and titled it A Grand Overture of Warlike Instruments. It proved more popular than the fireworks themselves: a dress rehearsal drew a crowd of 12,000. Handel went on to program it many more times … with strings. Countless newlyweds today still choose one of its stirring movements, La Rejouissance, as their wedding recessional music.
Spanish composer Manuel de Falla (1876-1946) wrote El amor brujo (Love, the Magician) in 1915. Like the two Sarasate works on this program, this piece was inspired by gypsy life and was revolutionary for its time. The tradition of flamenco underlies this remarkably beautiful and energetic music, which expresses a theme frequently found in gypsy folklore: the dread of the disembodied spirit that remains among the living even after death. In this tale, a young Spanish Andalusian gypsy girl must banish the ghost of her dead husband in a ritual fire dance before she can marry her new love.
Hispanic-American jazz composer Johnny Richards (1911-1968) was a pivotal writer of Stan Kenton big band tunes: his 1956 Cuban Fire! suite was one of the band’s biggest hits. The fiery La Suerte de los Tontos (Fortune of Fools) from that suite was later arranged for full orchestra: its fantastic, dramatic opening, popular with marching bands, leads to swinging Latin rhythms and melodies.