If it's true that most works of great art are inherently about inner conflict, then Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky is a shoo-in for the role of poster child for creators of great music. A closeted homosexual, Tchaikovsky unsuccessfully married, constantly fought with the nationalist government in his native country, Russia, and died shortly after one of his greatest artistic successes in what some historians consider to be a suicide.
But in addition to having a life that would now qualify as fodder for a TV miniseries, Tchaikovsky wrote some of the most adored music in the classical canon and has rightfully assumed a place beside the holy Trinity of popular classical composers -- Ludwig von Beethoven, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Johann Sebastian Bach. The Russian composer's works have all the attitude of 19th-century pre-revolution Russia and yet also incorporate the calming structure of traditional Western European idioms.
Although his three ballets are extraordinarily famous -- the ubiquitous holiday favorite, The Nutcracker, the fantasy Sleeping Beauty and the dark Swan Lake -- his symphonies and concertos are some of the most challenging and popular examples of both solo and symphonic music.
This Saturday and Sunday, the Colorado Springs Philharmonic will tackle three of Tchaikovsky's masterpieces in a concert conducted by Lawrence Leighton-Smith.
The Totally Tchaikovsky! concert will feature the Polonaise, the traditional Polish dance, from Eugene Onegin, the most successful opera Tchaikovsky wrote, derived from a story by fellow Russian Aleksandr Pushkin.
Continuing with the Polish theme, the Philharmonic will tackle the meaty Symphony No. 3, aka the "Polish" symphony, so nicknamed because of its final movement, which incorporates the Polonaise rhythm. Again, one of Tchaikovsky's most popular symphonies, the Polish symphony showcases Tchaikovsky's use of melody, contrast and complex interlocking harmonies.
Soloist William Wolfram's performance of the legendary Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor will round out the concert. Like the other pieces on the program, the Piano Concerto No. 1 is a popular Tchaikovsky hit.
Wolfram is an award-winning soloist who has won medals at international competitions including the William Kapell, the Naumberg, and the prestigious (you guessed it) Tchaikovsky. In addition to his many accolades, Wolfram has made numerous solo appearances with (to name just a few), the Pittsburgh Symphony, the San Francisco Symphony, the Indianapolis Symphony and the National Symphony. Also a dedicated chamber performer, Wolfram is no stranger to Colorado Springs classical music audiences -- he has been a member of the Colorado College Summer Music Festival faculty since the late 1980s.
With these three pieces, the Colorado Springs Philharmonic proves continuing popularity is well justified.
-- Bettina Swigger
The Colorado Springs Philharmonic with William Wolfram, piano
Pikes Peak Center, 190 S. Cascade Ave.
Saturday, Jan. 3 at 8 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 4 at 2:30 p.m.
$12-48; 520-SHOW or www.ticketmaster.com