By Will Morrison
Classical music is set apart from all other forms—folk, pop, techno, etc.—in that it is an inherent challenge for all parties involved. Composers challenge themselves to think of new ways to combine 12 tones in order to make something new. Musicians are challenged to outperform themselves in the replication of the composers’ grand ideas. Listeners are challenged to open their minds to these new formats and accept them as beautiful works of art, or meaningless vibrations in the air. These challenges propel the medium ever forward. In the music world, no goal is more important than this drive into a universe of endless variation, and in that pursuit the Riverside County Philharmonic is determined to do its part.
“Every work that I program on a concert is a work that I feel everyone needs to hear. I listen and study a lot of music, but I only perform works that I consider to be extraordinary,” says Tomasz Golka, Director of the Riverside County Philharmonic. “I take great pride in the fact that at a concert that I’m conducting, the audience will always hear something with which they are not familiar.”
This dedication lends itself well to the energy brought forth by the musicians themselves. Being so close to Los Angeles, a destination for players interested in the unique atmosphere afforded by Hollywood studios, the Philharmonic has become a furnace of musical talent. “Typically, in a large metropolitan area, after the musicians that play in the main orchestra of the city, the level of playing drops considerably,” Golka says. In Riverside, however, musicians can come together to perform some of the most breathtaking works of music without falling into day-to-day drudgery. The Riverside County Philharmonic “is an orchestra made up of the best freelance musicians from the Los Angeles area.”
Under the direction of Golka, this passion and energy is put to good use. Alongside the more traditional concert performances are the Philharmonic’s outreach programs. “Adventures in Music” allows students from kindergarten through high school to experience music in orchestral and more intimate settings. The program sends small groups of musicians to area schools to perform for and interact with students. The “Heartstrings” program provides the full symphonic experience to those who would otherwise be unable to attend.
On May 18, the Philharmonic will be presenting “Coming to America,” a celebration of three great works penned by composers who had immigrated to the United States: Schoenberg’s “Accompaniment to a Cinematographic Scene”; Tchaikovsky’s “Piano Concerto #1”; and Rachmaninoff’s “Symphony #3”. Pianist Adam Golka, the director’s brother, will perform the works.
This is not the first time the brothers have shared the stage. “Adam and I have performed many times together,” Thomasz says. “He is a wonderful, thoughtful, and deep musician, and I always enjoy and grow personally from our collaborations.” The Golkas are first-generation Americans themselves. The children of Polish musicians were raised in Houston, though the brothers now both reside a few blocks from each other in New York City.
Their collaboration marks the fourth and final concert in the Philharmonic’s 2012-2013 season.
Each of the works being played on the 18th is a masterpiece in its own right, and to be able to hear them all together is an experience not to be missed. From the romantics Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff, to the more modern tonalities of Schoenberg, these pieces speak to us from the past, in a universal language. The lessons they teach are still valid, and powerful, and available to anyone willing to take up the challenge.
Riverside County Philharmonic at Fox Theater, Riverside, 3801 Mission Inn Ave., Riverside, 951-779-9800; www.foxriversidelive.com. Sat, May 18, 7PM. $22-$104.