Conductor José Valencia is delighted to play Beethoven’s Fifth
February 3—José Valencia, conductor and artistic director of the Kokomo Symphony Orchestra, says people are often disappointed by his answer when they ask him for his favorite composer. He tells them that there isn’t an all-time favorite; instead, he falls in love with the one he studied.
There are four composers covered at a KSO concert on Saturday, but Valencia said he could be very happy to tackle Beehtoven’s Fifth Symphony.
The orchestra’s setlists are, in part, chosen by Valence.
He explained that each season begins with larger concepts solicited from board members. Using these general themes, Valencia compiles a list of possible works the symphony could perform, then narrows the selection down with the board members.
Typically, he tries to pair at least one well-known composition, like Beethoven’s Fifth, with another he feels is underrated, and then adds a more modern work.
“We don’t play a lot of Beethoven,” he said. “Why? It’s very difficult to achieve.”
As one of the most recognizable pieces of classical music, with hundreds of recordings by better-funded orchestras, Valencia admitted it would be a “daunting process” to perform one of the most famous pieces of Beethoven.
For some, Beethoven serves as a transitional figure that connects the Classical era with the Romantic era.
“Romantic (era) music is more about emotion, it’s not necessarily about love,” Valencia explained. “It’s more about feeling something deep in your soul.”
Saturday’s concert will also feature one of Beethoven’s contemporaries, Carl Maria von Weber, who, as Valencia described it, was “fully steeped in Romantic Expressionism.”
The Kokomo Symphony plans to perform the overture to “Der Freischütz”.
Although the concert is titled “Mid-Winter Romance: A Classical Emotional Journey”, Valencia explained that some of the pieces are less about love and focus more on harmonic vibrations that connect with the emotions of the listener.
The story of “Der Freischütz” has a hint of romance, but Valence said the story wasn’t exactly romantic; the opera is more about a hunter who struggles with demonic possession.
Conversely, another piece Valencia said he was excited to perform is about romance.
He described Giuseppe Verdi’s “La Traviata” as a tragic opera about love that is not approved by the woman’s father. As Valencia put it, the woman “dies of that pervasive lyrical sickness called consumption.”
“La Traviata” is also featured in the film “Pretty Woman”, which was inspired by the opera.
The symphony will perform the prelude to the final act.
Valencia explained that he had performed the complete opera several times with various New York opera companies.
“Just hearing this prelude deeply brings me to understand how difficult the emotions of love are in the third act of ‘La Traviata,’ and I hope people will eventually feel that,” said- he declared.
The concert will end with a more modern piece of music, a suite from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Phantom of the Opera”.
Originally, the Kokomo Symphony Orchestra was to perform Johann Strauss II’s “Emperor’s Waltz”, but Valencia decided to cancel the piece. Having recent experience with the piece, Valencia found Strauss’ score “just awful to look at”.
The rehearsal sequences throughout the work can be confusing for musicians not used to playing it every year, such as the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.
Moreover, for budgetary reasons, the 46 musicians of the Kokomo Symphony will only have two rehearsals before the concert.
“Our concerts are actually full of magic because they’re not just rehearsed to be just standard, like a recording would be,” Valencia said. “There is an element and a benefit to people being on guard.”
The concert is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. at Havens Auditorium. Tickets are $20. For students, the cost is $5 and elementary school students enter for free. Tickets can be purchased online at www.kokomosymphony.com/subscription-events.
James Bennett III can be reached at 765-454-8580 or [email protected]