"I thought it would be good to close my career here the way I began."
So said Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra conductor John Farrer, who makes his last appearance as the BSO's music director Saturday evening.
Farrer has served as the BSO's full-time music director for 39 years, doubling as the orchestra's executive director for most of that time. But his association with the orchestra goes back even further, to November 1970, when he served as a guest conductor.
"He looked like a baby; he looked so young," said principal clarinetist Mary Moore, the longest-serving orchestra musician. "But his demeanor and everything was the same then as it is now.
"He showed respect for the orchestra right away and that does a lot for an orchestra's confidence."
Saturday's concert -- titled "Three Audience Favorites" -- includes two pieces from that 1970 concert program: the Overture to "Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg,"("The Master-Singer of Nuremberg") by Richard Wagner and the Symphony No. 5 in E minor by Tchaikovsky. The concert also features rising violinist Bella Hristova performing the Violin Concerto in G minor by Max Bruch.
"With these great pieces, no matter how many times you go through them, there's always something new," Farrer said.
"Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg" is Wagner's only romantic comedy and his most "traditional" opera: Wagner constructed this opera in the standard format of distinct arias, choruses, small ensembles and even ballet.
Because he based his opera on historical characters and music, instead of his preferred Germanic legends and rule-breaking musical ideas, this overture, like the entire score, is written in a much more traditional, and arguably accessible, style, with a look backward to earlier musical traditions.
Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5 is what is known as a "cyclical" symphony, one that employs a recurring theme in various ways. Tchaikovsky's creates a contest between a dark, hymn-like minor-key melody so characteristic of the melancholic Russian composer, and its major-key, triumphant counterpart. Like Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, the major-key melody ultimately wins the contest, representing a victory over fate.
"A lot of composers write great first movements, but the final movement doesn't always close it well," said Farrer, who noted Tchaikovsky's symphony runs at around 50 minutes, though he promises the audience will be rewarded for investing their time.
"I feel that the last movement does sum up everything in a most satisfactory way."
Bulgarian-born violinist Bella Hristova joins the BSO to perform the Bruch concerto.
At 29, Hristova is considered a rising star by major critics, and has won numerous awards around the world. She plays a 1655 Niccolo Amati violin.
Moore said the orchestra hopes to see a large turnout for Farrer's final concert. She said the Rabobank Theater marquee will read "Celebrate John Farrer" leading up to the concert, and a reception is planned for Farrer in the theater lobby following the performance. The audience is invited to the reception, which will include a reception line, and a presentation to Farrer from the orchestra.
"The musicians have done all the work, all the planning," Moore said. "It's just the high respect we have for him.
"Nobody wants to see him go."