Published on January 24th, 2022

Symphony Tacoma looks to Eastern Europe and expressions of love for its third of six classics concerts in its 75th Anniversary Season. This concert, featuring violinist Bella Hristova, was originally scheduled for the 2020-21 season but was rescheduled when live performances were canceled due to the pandemic.

“I am so happy to finally bring back this concert!” Music Director Sarah Ioannides. “I hope its messages of love and revelation will be more touching and poignant than ever—since we have been apart, the striking beauty of live music is felt more richly than ever before.”

The concert begins with Bedřich Smetana’s Vlata, a love letter to his homeland. Considered the father of Czech music, Smetana captured his country’s musical style in Vlast, a set of six symphonic poems that portray the history, legends, landscapes and folklore of Bohemia. The most famous of this set, The Moldau, is a tone poem based on the Vlata River (its Czech name). The work depicts the flow of the river from the mountains, through the Czech countryside to the city of Prague, and ultimately to its merge with the Elbe as it flows out to sea.

David Ludwig, the recently-appointed Dean and Director of Music at The Juilliard School, wrote his violin concerto for violinist Bella Hristova, his wife, at the time of their marriage. Ludwig comments, “I only know of a few concertos written by composers for first performances by their spouses, and I don’t know of any that are motivated by the idea of marriage itself, as this one is. My concerto comes with musical references to partnership, empathy and communion, as it imagines the before, during and after a traditional wedding ceremony.

“Both of our backgrounds are Eastern European,” continues Ludwig. “The piece is full of dance music from that part of the world, including several dances native to Bella’s native Bulgaria.” To further personalize the work, Ludwig also drew influence from Bella’s father, composer Yuri Chichkov who passed away when she was a young child. “Chichkov was a wonderful and well-known Russian composer, who himself wrote a violin concerto. After a year of hunting, I tracked down that concerto and quoted from his second movement at a place in my own second movement–as a way to include him in our marriage.”

“This work is one of the most musically touching tributes of love, dedication and remembrance,” comments Ioannides. “It is not only a work of pure brilliance but thoughtful sincerity, charm and happiness.”

Mahler’s epic Symphony No. 1 “Titan” closes the concert. Inspired by Jean Paul Richter’s novel, Titan, this work describes a “strong, heroic man, his life and sufferings, his battles and defeats at the hands of Fate.” The piece mobilized Mahler’s legacy as a symphonist with visions of nature, and a finale of thunderbolts and lightning. To build the story, Mahler incorporates popular 18th century folk elements, marches and dances—including the Ländler, a folk dance in 4 time which was popular in Austria, Bavaria, German Switzerland, and Slovenia at the time.

“This program is akin to a voyage through landscape, life and stories of people from the heart of Eastern Europe, drawing from timeless folkloristic elements and the region’s songs and dances,” says Ioannides.

Symphony Tacoma’s 2021-2022 season is generously sponsored by MultiCare and Tacoma Creates. This concert is sponsored by LeRoy Jewelers, R.L. Ray Violin Shop, Timothy E. Williams and Northwest Public Broadcasting.