Bangor Daily News, October 4, 2023 by Judy Harrison
Bangor, ME – Guest pianist Margarita Shevchenko blew the roof off the Collins Center for the Arts on Sunday in a stunningly beautiful performance of Edvard Grieg’s iconic Piano Concerto in A minor with the Bangor Symphony Orchestra.
Shevchenko captivated the audience as the symphony kicked off its 128th season with a musical tour of Scandinavia that was splendid. The program included works by Jean Sibelius of Finland and the little known female Swedish composer Elfrida Andree.
What makes Grieg’s only piano concerto unique is that it begins with a roll of the timpani with the immediate entrance of the solo piano and the orchestra. Most concertos start with a lengthy exposition by the orchestra before a note is played on the piano, according to the program notes.
Grieg wrote for the entire keyboard, and Shevchenko’s fingers literally danced over the Collin Center’s Steinway. She brought the Norweigan’s concerto, written in 1868 when Grieg was 25, to life with grace and verve.
A native of Russia, the soloist has won major international competitions, including the Cleveland International Competition and the Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition. Shevchenko’s performance and her collaboration with conductor Lucas Richman and the players was proof she’s deserving of all the accolades she’s earned.
As the symphony’s music director, Richman has worked hard at introducing audiences to female composers whose work is not well known. Andree is one of those women.
Born in 1841, she was the first woman in Sweden to hold a position as an organist, conduct an orchestra, and to compose orchestral and chamber music, according to the program notes. She worked with her father to change a law that prevented women being hired to play the organ and in 1867 she became the organist at the Gothenberg Cathedral.
Her Concert Overture in D major, chosen by Richman to open Sunday’s concert, was first performed in 1888 in Berlin. After that, it was held in an archive for 100 years until a college professor got permission in 1998 to edit it and arrange a performance in Walla Walla, Washington. The orchestra embraced the piece Sunday and lovingly interpreted it.
Sibelius’ Symphony No. 5 in E flat major was inspired, in part, by a large flock of swans on his property. It begins with a rising horn line that in the final movement represents the swans flying overhead, Richman told the audience as the concert began. As the horns and the strings swelled in the auditorium, concertgoers could almost see the majestic birds fluttering overhead. It was a delightful and inspiring musical experience.
Renia Shterenberg, the symphony’s new executive director who replaced Brian Hinrichs on Sept. 1, introduced herself to the audience before the concert began. Hinrichs left the BSO earlier this year after a decade to lead the Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters.
Shterenberg came to Bangor from Jacksonville, Oregon, where she was general manager of the Britt Festival Orchestra, located in the southern part of the state known for its wineries.
She was “instrumental in the fiscal oversight of the orchestra’s budget, and played a critical role in raising contributions which resulted in growth to the orchestra’s dedicated Classical Annual Fund of over 33 percent in the first year of her tenure,” according to the symphony’s website.
“Shterenberg also spearheaded grant-writing initiatives for both the orchestra and educational departments and has collaborated on programming and audience development plans that resulted in increased attendance, revenue, and recognition for the Britt Festival Orchestra.”
The Bangor Symphony Orchestra’s next concert will be at 3 p.m. Nov. 19 at the Collins Center for the Arts in Orono. It will feature works by Claude Debussy, Sergei Prokofiev and Richard Wagner. For information, visit bangorsymphony.org or call 207-942-5555.