Stuart Malina will conduct two great 20th century story ballets – Copland’s Billy the Kid and Khachaturian’s Spartacus – followed by Richard Strauss’s masterful portrait in music of the legendary knight errant, Don Quixote, as the Harrisburg Symphony continues its 2011-12 Masterworks season with a program entitled The Don’s Deeds on Saturday, April 14th at 8 p.m. and on Sunday, April 15th at 3 p.m. Performances will take place at the Forum at 5th and Walnut Sts in Harrisburg. HSO principal cellist Fiona Thompson will “portray” the Don and principal violist Julius Wirth will “portray” his sidekick, Sancho Panza, in Strauss’s masterpiece, aptly subtitled “Fantastic Variations on a Theme of Knightly Character.”
Opening the program will be Aaron Copland’s Billy the Kid, originally designed as a one-act ballet based on a semi-fictional treatment of the notorious outlaw, with choreography by Eugene Loring. Born Henry McCarty (1859?-1881)—a.k.a. William H. Bonney—Billy appears as a quasi-mythical figure, a romanticized emblem of the passions and dangers of the Wild West. Copland frames the story with widely spaced harmonies that vividly conjure a sense of the open prairie (along with its loneliness) and the vast scale of migration westward.
Concluding the first half will be Aram Khachaturian’s ballet, Spartacus. Its instantly accessible melodies (including the famous love theme for Spartacus and Phrygia), flashy orchestration, and direct emotional appeal have insured its popularity and generated multiple recordings since its premiere in 1956.
A FREE pre-concert lecture for all ticket-holders at 7 p.m. on Saturday and at 2 p.m. on Sunday in Section 208 of the Forum will be given by Dick Strawser, Classically-trained musician, Composer, writer and Arts Blogger.
The Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra and Music Director Stuart Malina present The Don’s Deeds at 8 p.m. on Saturday, April 14 and at 3 p.m. on Sunday, April 15, at the Forum, located at 5th and Walnut Streets in downtown Harrisburg, PA. Tickets range from $10 to $64 depending on seating location, and are available online at Harrisburg Symphony or by calling the HSO office (717) 545-5527.
Fiona Thompson is currently the principal cellist of the Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra as well as Artist-in-Residence with the Mendelssohn Piano Trio at Messiah College. She is also a member of the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra and Concert Artists of Baltimore, and regularly plays with the Kennedy Center Opera Orchestra in D.C. with whom she recently toured Japan. Her chamber music appearances include the Embassy Series in Washington D.C. for which the Mendelssohn Piano Trio are the resident group, National Gallery of the Arts, Phillips Collection, Penn Alps music festival and Spoleto Music Festival in South Carolina.
As cellist of the Mendelssohn Piano Trio, Fiona Thompson has become known among devoted audiences for what one Washington Post critic has described as her “eloquent”, “radiant” and “unfailingly handsome” sound. She began her cello studies at the age of seven in her native England, and over a musical career that spans nearly twenty years, she has performed across the US, Europe and Asia.
In addition to the Mendelssohn Piano Trio, Fiona’s Chamber music experience also includes performances with the Melos Ensemble, the Cygnus Chamber Ensemble and the Rasumovskey Quartet. She has played with a number prominent chamber musicians, including violinist Earl Carlyss, pianist Ann Schien, clarinetist Gervase de Peyer, pianist Stanley Babin, bandaneonist Raul Jaurena and pianist and conductor Stuart Malina.
Much of Fiona’s career success can be attributed to her education. She began at Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester, England, and then she attended the Royal Northern College of Music, a well-known performance institution also in Manchester. In 1994 she graduated from the Royal Northern with honors and was accepted to the University of Southern California (USC) Thornton School of Music on a full scholarship. She has studied with many fine teachers, including Elizabeth Wilson, Gillian Thoday, Moray Welsh, Leonid Gorokov and Ronald Leonard.
As a soloist, Fiona Thompson has performed with the Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra, Westwood Chamber Orchestra and the Bakersfield Symphony. As an orchestral musician, Fiona is active with a number of well-known groups. She has played with Baltimore Symphony Orchestra as well as the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra, including the opera’s 2002 tour in Japan. She is principal cellist with the Harrisburg Symphony orchestra, where she has been a member since 1998. She has also played with the Metropolitan Orchestra, as principal cellist on its Arlo Guthrie tour at Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall.
Fiona’s background and performance experience has also contributed to her role as a music educator. She has given master classes in the US and abroad, and she is currently a teacher and Artist in Residence at Messiah College in Pennsylvania. She is also a frequent judge for competitions.
Ms. Thompson plays on a cello by Paolo Testore, circa 1750.