Free ORT Concert Inaugurates the ‘Light and Darkness’ Series

Violinist Ilya Gringolts and conductor Daniele Rustioni during a rehearsal for the Teatro Verdi concert

This Thursday, March 25, the Orchestra della Toscana (ORT) will resume its virtual concerts, performing live to an audience beyond Florence’s Teatro Verdi. Tonight’s performance marks the first of a new series: “Light and Darkness,” which combines themes of Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, to highlight the beginning of his tribute year on the same day.   The performance is freely available for listeners on ORT’s Facebook page and Youtube channel.

Thursday’s concert will be conducted by Daniele Rustioni, who will blend two composer’s works, Prokofiev and Haydn, who despite the 159 years between their lives and their composing, had styles that clashed.  The violin soloist for this concert is Ilya Gringolts, who was the younger person to be  awarded the Paganini Prize in 1998. Gringolts has found immense success throughout his career and founded his own Gringolts Quartet in 2008.

Prokofiev was first regarded as a composer-pianist, and later he turned to orchestral music intended for the ballet, though his main interest was always the opera. Prokofiev will be honored in the concert with two of his pieces that were written 15 years apart but are the beginning and end of his journey to and from America. Prokofiv spent 18 years in America touring as a composer, conductor, and pianist. Once the Great Depression hit America, the composer decided to return to the Soviet Union to continue to create more music, as well as pursue his desire to be more involved in the socialism movement in his country. Additionally, Prokofiev wrote a symphony in the style of Haydn, “in the belief that if Haydn had lived in the present day, he would have kept part of his old style, while at the same time accepting something new.” This sentiment is in line with the theme of the concerts, which brings together light and dark, old and new, and modernity and tradition.

Haydn, often dubbed “Father of the Symphony,” was an Austrian composer during the Classical period. Haydn credits his originality to his career as a court musician for a wealthy family, saying this job isolated him from other composers and the trends in music. To close tonight’s concert, his Farewell Symphony will be played. The composition expresses the dismay of court musicians who are away from their homes and families longer than usual. This piece was presented to Prince Nikolaus, who recognized its unusual tone of F sharp minor, and noticed as all of the musicians left their places and blew out their candle one at a time after the symphony had finished. The Prince was able to send the musicians home to see their families, thus achieving Haydn’s goal.  (autumn noury)