Insights from Artistic Director Yuriy Bekker

Dear friends,

I am so excited to welcome you to our 2022-2023 season. Our season opens this weekend with Emmy and Grammy award-winning conductor Gerard Schwarz conducting Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier along with his son Julian playing Elgar’s Cello Concerto – a truly remarkable family affair! Before every Masterworks concert, I am planning to write “Insight” notes. I wrote these preview letters when I was Interim Artistic Director from 2010 to 2014, and so many of my friends enjoyed them that I decided to bring them back.

Maestro Schwarz is no stranger to Charleston. In February of 2015 he conducted our orchestra in a very memorable performance of Brahms Symphony no. 4. It was a spectacular concert and incredible experience for our musicians, which many of us still talk about. I reached out to Maestro Schwarz with an invitation over a year ago and was thrilled when he agreed to conduct our orchestra again. The main work on the program is a suite that Schwarz assembled from Richard Strauss’ opera, Der Rosenkavalier [The Rose Carrier]. The suite features all of the highlights from the opera in a symphonic setting, including selections from the waltz sequence, glorious moments from Octavian’s “Presentation of the Rose,” and of course, the famous trio section which is some of the most beautiful music ever written (in my opinion). I get goose bumps every time I hear this climatic moment.

In my fifteen years in Charleston, this will be my third time accompanying Elgar’s Cello Concerto and I look forward to its beautifully haunting melodies each time. Composed just after World War I, this was a deeply personal work for Elgar who was devastated by the effects and destruction of the Great War. Cellist Jaqueline du Pre was a big champion of the concerto. She helped put it on the musical map and establish its place in the cello repertory. We are delighted to present Julian Schwarz as our soloist for this iteration. He is an incredible musician and great talent with a gorgeous, big sound. I think you will love hearing him play. Julian was actually supposed to perform with our orchestra back in 2017 but the effects of Hurricane Irma delayed the concert and, unfortunately, the new date did not work for Julian. We are thrilled that we can finally bring him to play this beloved work under the baton of his father.

The opening work of the program is Umoja, written by iconic composer and flutist Valerie Coleman. Coleman is a gifted musician, composer and entrepreneur. Umoja was a commission by the Philadelphia Orchestra. We picked this as our opening work for Project Aurora, the symphony’s new endeavor to promote, preserve, and create African-American arts and culture, which will be woven throughout our season. Meaning “unity” in Swahili, Umoja was originally a simple song for women’s choir, which Coleman later rearranged into a woodwind quintet, and then finally transformed into an orchestral version through a commission by the Philadelphia Orchestra in 2019. In Coleman’s own words, “this version honors the simple melody that ever was, but is now a full exploration into the meaning of freedom and unity. Now more than ever, Umoja has to ring as a strong and beautiful anthem for the world we live in today.” Coleman masterfully promotes this important message in a musically beautiful and accessible piece that I know you will love. It is my great hope that our music and performances always bring out the best in our people and promote unity beyond the walls of our performance hall. 

I truly hope that you will be able to come and enjoy this week’s opening night. Our orchestra is spectacular, and this program will be a great start to a terrific season.

Musically yours,

 Yuriy