On Jan. 25, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) will play at the Mondavi Center. Rooted in London, England, the RPO has been touring the world since 1987, earning international critical acclaim. They will be performing popular Beethoven works, including his famous Symphony No. 5.
This leg of the tour is set to display a unique attribute: the chair violinist will conduct the orchestra rather than the head conductor. Pinchas Zukerman, the lead violinist, will be in charge of running the full concert all while performing a large chunk of the repertoire.
This rare happening (dual soloist conductor) has historical meaning behind it, and the RPO plans to honor its origins.
“The role of a conductor wasn’t really cemented until after Beethoven’s time,” said third-year music and political science double major Alex Stepans. “Before that if you had a concerto, you’d have a soloist conduct. The concertmaster used to conduct and that would be the violinist.”
The set-list includes Beethoven’s Overture to “Prometheus,” Op. 43, Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61 and Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67. Each work is considered a well-known classic, familiar and accessible to those without a musical background.
Overture to “Prometheus” is the opening to Beethoven’s full-length ballet, The Creatures of Prometheus. This piece is often selected to be played as the introduction to orchestral concerts and was thus chosen by the RPO as its opening act.
Violin Concerto in D Major will feature Pinchas Zukerman on the violin. The song is about 45 minutes long and is split into three dynamic movements. This is the piece in which the audience will get to see Zukerman both perform solo and conduct the orchestra.
Phil Daley, publicity coordinator at the UC Davis Music Department, is most excited to see the concerto performed without their usual conductor.
“The orchestra has of course played the violin concerto multiple times,” Daley said. “I think that’s one of the cool things about orchestras like this — they’ve played classics like this a thousand times so they don’t really have to worry about playing the right notes since they already know the notes. It’s about making great music and that’s what makes it really special.”
The last piece, Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, is perhaps the most famous and influential song in classical music history. The beginning measures of the song have been featured in multiple advertisements, film and musical remixes. Though most people know the beginning measures by heart, few have listened to all four movements of the work all the way through.
“The big draw is Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, with its famous ‘da-da-da-DUH’ intro,” said Rob Tocalino, director of marketing at the Mondavi Center. “It’s one of the most enduring and popular pieces of classical music, but surprisingly, this will be the first time it will be performed as part of the Mondavi Center’s Orchestra Series.”
Another reason many people are planning to attend the concert besides the familiarity of Beethoven is because the RPO is a non-American group. Orchestras from different countries often use different techniques and produce unique sounds to their own area. Since they are from afar, it’s a once in a lifetime experience to get to hear the RPO play.
“It’s a one-of-a-kind experience to see an orchestra from a different country perform,” Daley said. “The RPO is really meant to be heard and enjoyed live and they’re amazing.”
Tickets are currently sold out for the Jan. 25 concert. You can visitmondaviarts.org for any information on additional sales.