MUSICAL MIX: TSO pairs familiar with the exotic

TUPELO – With help from an old friend, Tupelo Symphony Orchestra will mix the familiar with the exotic on Saturday.
Russian-trained pianist Yakov Kasman will make his fourth appearance with the symphony. A silver medalist at the 10th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, Kasman will perform Tchaikovsky’s “Piano Concerto No. 1.”
“This piece is one of Yakov Kasman’s specialties,” said Steven Byess, TSO musical director. “I’m not certain what being Russian does for him to play this ultra-Russian concerto, but it certainly does work.
“Every account of anybody who has ever heard or written about Yakov Kasman playing this concerto exhausts every superlative they have.”
Byess said it’s hard for modern audiences to avoid the opening of the concerto, which has been used “in every feasible form of commercials and radio announcements. It’s just drama at its best.”
But there are two more movements to Tchaikovsky’s work that aren’t as well known. The second movement features slow music with a playful section in the middle, and the last movement is a set of variations based on a Russian folk song, Byess said.
“I don’t think I can accurately count the number of times I have heard it,” he said, “and I have never tired of it. It’s just that kind of fresh, exciting, brilliant piece that’s a joy to hear every time. I hope the Tupelo public feels the same way.”

‘Russlan’ & ‘Aladdin’
Kasman and Tchaikovksky will take over the second portion of the concert. The night will open with Glinka’s “Overture to Russlan and Ludmilla” followed by Nielsen’s “Suite from Aladdin.” Both will bring exotic flair to the Link Centre Concert Hall.
“’Russlan and Ludmilla’ is one of the most frequently performed overtures in the orchestral repertoire,” Byess said. “It’s a way to bookend our program with Russian composers.”
The overture starts out high-energy and ends even higher, Byess said.
“It has more notes than almost any five-minute overture you’ll ever hear. It’s enormously exciting,” he said. “It’s the perfect way to begin our concert.”
The music from “Aladdin” was inspired by “The Arabian Nights.” It has seven movements, and opens with a dramatic march.
“It’s almost like you can see the elephants parading through in a procession in this thing,” Byess said.
The fifth movement uses four separate orchestras in different tempos to illustrate the atmosphere at an outdoor marketplace.
“It’s a real challenge because you have one conductor conducting four different orchestras,” he said. “It’s like going on a big circle through the market and you hear all of these different influences.”
It’s a creative mix of music. Some of the concert will be familiar to almost everyone at Link Centre; other parts could be new to members of the symphony. Everyone’s invited to lend an ear.
“I think the Tupelo public has come to expect great things and creative things and progressive programs from us,” Byess said. “I always say if we can just get people to the hall, they will see for themselves what an amazing and extraordinary experience it is to hear this music. The music really speaks for itself.”

Contact M. Scott Morris at (662) 678-1589 or

Oct. 17
TUPELO – Tupelo Symphony Orchestra with Yakov Kasman will begin at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 17 in the Link Centre Concert Hall. $20 advance; $25 at door; $10 students. (662) 842-8433.

M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

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