Montanans, who are known to get romantic when discussing their rivers, will appreciate the theme of "Ebb and Flow," the Missoula Symphony Orchestra's concert this weekend.
Artistic director and conductor Darko Butorac said he was searching for something that "resonates" deeply with Missoula, and naturally "A River Runs Through It" came to mind. Norman Maclean's book doesn't emerge during the concert, only a love of rivers.
The program opens with an ode to a waterway in the Czech Republic and ends with a Romantic symphony named for Rhine region. In between, audiences will experience a virtuoso piece for two pianos and orchestra.
The concert starts with a tone poem, "The Moldau," by Bohemian composer Bedřich Smetana (1824-1884). His piece, one of the most famous melodies in the classical repertoire, is a travelogue of the Vltava River in the Czech Republic, Butorac said. The musical scenes begin with flutes mimicking the "little droplets of ice melting and plunking into the water" and melodically widening from a stream into a river, he said. Viewers hear a hunting scene enacted by the horns, a wedding celebration with a jig, and a section of turbulence as the river approaches whitewater and a set of falls before arriving into the city of Prague.
The guest soloists will be familiar names to classical fans. Greg Anderson and Elizabeth Joy Roe, a virtuoso piano duo who met at the Juilliard School, have been hailed for their energetic and accessible performances with top organizations around the world. Locally, they performed at the University of Montana School of Music's Celebrate Piano series in 2014.
Butorac said the social-media savvy musicians have cultivated a unique career as a performing duo. While duo pieces are common, focusing a career as a duo is not.
"Here you have an instance of two really exceptional musicians who met early on in their training at Juilliard, who really clicked and decided to pursue that as a path," he said.
They'll join the MSO for Mozart's Double Piano Concerto No. 10, E-flat Major.
The two suggested the Mozart piece, which is one of the best known pieces for two pianos and orchestra, and Butorac thought it would fit metaphorically with the water theme.
The concert culminates in third symphony by German Romantic composer Robert Schumann (1810-1856),
The work is known as the "Rhenish," inspired by the Rhineland and the Gothic architecture of the Cologne Cathedral, where Schumann saw a procession for the new archbishop.
Within the piece, he pays homage to musical inspirations, the Rhine River and his own, personal spirit, Butorac said.
Butorac said it numbers among the top 25 symphonies in the repertoire. Among some of its interesting features, it's structured in five movements instead of four. His fourth movement is "very solemn," Butorac said, and features the trombone section, which doesn't play a note for the first two-thirds of the symphony. The solemnity was inspired by that visit to the cathedral, which he expresses by looking back to Baroque contrapuntal writing.
Those are individual details, though, and listeners need to experience it "from 30,000 feet up" and go on the entire half-hour journey.
"It summarizes itself, at the end," he said.