Pianist Roberto Plano returns to perform with the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra in its final concert of the 2012-13 season Saturday.
It's been an ambitious year for the orchestra, with a harmonica concerto, a photo-choreography presentation, world premieres and bicentennial celebrations for Richard Wagner and Giuseppe Verdi, a daring, explosive choral masterwork.
To cap such a season, the orchestra will perform the U.S. premiere of the Fanfare for Orchestra by Estonian violinist and composer Mihkel Kerem; the "Four Sea Interludes" from the opera "Peter Grimes" by Benjamin Britten; and the Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major by Johannes Brahms, featuring Plano.
"He's a wonderful pianist," said conductor John Farrer. "I think I first heard him at the 2005 Van Cliburn competition -- he's a great pianist and a great artist."
The Italian Plano has been lauded as much for his engaging personality as for his performances, making him a favorite with audiences and in interviews, documentaries and master classes.
Farrer's travels also led him to choosing Kerem's work. Kerem has served as concertmaster in several performances for Farrer while he was conducting in England.
"Somewhere along the line I picked up on the fact that he is a composer as well," Farrer said. "I asked him to send me some of his work and I really liked this fanfare."
Farrer noted that fanfares are typically written for brass instruments, but Kerem's is written for the entire orchestra.
"It's accessible; it's not some wild piece, even though it was written in 2010," Farrer said.
Britten's "Peter Grimes" was one of the most important musical events following World War II -- the composer's first opera, "Peter Grimes" was an immediate triumph, and re-established English opera as an important part of the repertoire.
"It's the work of a master," Farrer said. "It's original; it doesn't sound like anyone else. It's technically perfect."
"Peter Grimes" is the story of a man who is trying to make a prominent place for himself in a close-knit fishing village in Suffolk in England. In his drive and ambition, Grimes abuses and ultimately causes the death of the two boys who are apprenticed to him. Organized into a prologue and three acts, the major sections of the opera are connected by orchestral music. Britten extracted these orchestral interludes into a separate concert work.
Though separated from the dramatic production, the interludes are still evocative of the various times of day and scenes they link: "Dawn," which connects the opera's prologue with the first act; "Sunday Morning," which sets the scene of the villagers attending church; "Moonlight," which leads into the final act; and "Storm," which conveys Grimes' own inner turmoil as his own end draws near.
The concert will close with the Brahms concerto. Written in the composer's mature period, this concerto has four movements, instead of the more common three movements for concertos. Although rooted in tradition, especially with regard to form, Brahms was also an innovator, which can be heard in this work in its melodic invention, harmonic variations, and its technical demands on the soloist and the orchestra.