Starting with Alexander Borodin’s “Polovtsian Dances,” members of Canterbury Choral Society will join the philharmonic for the rest of the program for pieces often performed sans chorus. 

click to enlarge Joel Levine conducts the Oklahoma City Philharmonic. - WENDY MUTZ
  • Wendy Mutz
  • Joel Levine conducts the Oklahoma City Philharmonic.

1812 Overture Finale
8 p.m. Saturday
Civic Center Music Hall
201 N. Walker Ave.
okcphilharmonic.org
842-5387
$15-$53
The Oklahoma City Philharmonic ends its 25th season with a lineup designed to take audiences on a musical journey from the high seas to wartime Russia.

It all begins with the siren song of Debussy’s ode to the sea, “La Mer.”

“His so-called impressionistic style works so well in evoking the ‘shock and awe’ factor that is the sea,” philharmonic conductor Joel Levine said. “Whether playful or powerful, the music knocks you back in your seat.”

Starting with Alexander Borodin’s “Polovtsian Dances,” members of Canterbury Choral Society will join the philharmonic for the rest of the program for pieces often performed sans chorus but, Levine remarked, “are much more fun with the singers.” Taken from the opera Prince Igor, “Polovtsian Dances” is inspired by the music of the invading Turks in the story and stands out for its layering of themes, including a famous oboe melody.

Next up is “Suite No. 2,” Maurice Ravel’s daring adaptation of the ballet Daphnis et Chloe, a 2nd-century Greek love story between a goatherd and a shepherdess. Commissioned by the Ballet Russes, Daphnis et Chloe became famous for its complex time signatures, causing its dancers much consternation.

“The music produced in this early era of the 20th century posed a lot of challenges for choreographers and dancers alike,” Levine said. “I am looking forward to hearing Ravel’s outrageously difficult writing in Daphnis’ ‘Suite No. 2,’ handled with aplomb by our fabulous musicians.”

The OKC Phil will end the evening with an explosive performance of Tchaikovsky’s immensely popular “1812 Overture.” Commemorating the Russian defense against Napoleon’s invading army, the composition has been pervasive in pop culture going back as far as the 1930s.

Often relegated to outdoor performances where conditions are less than ideal, Levine is excited about delivering a polished performance of this challenging piece. Despite what you might hear, he said orchestras enjoy performing the “1812 Overture” as long as it is not overplayed.

While it stands out as a well-known and beloved classical composition, it was written as a work-for-hire that Tchaikovsky initially dismissed.

“He thought the work was created in haste, without a lot of thought or craftsmanship,” Levine said. “It is not the most subtle music ever written, but that was never its purpose. Let’s not forget that he also disliked his ‘Fifth Symphony’ and The Nutcracker. Tchaikovsky was not always the best judge of his own music.”

Levine said that the work now belongs to audiences the world over and is beyond the reach of critics — even its creator.

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