FARGO - If there is too much of a good thing, patrons of the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra aren't worried about it this weekend.
For its season-opening concert on Saturday, Sept. 29, and Sunday, Sept. 30, the organization is bringing in its two most popular guest soloists from the last decade. Iconic cellist Sergey Antonov returns to perform David Hopper's "Hungarian Rhapsody," while violinist Kim Chee-Yun is back for Camille Saint-Saëns' "Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso."
As if that weren't enough, both stars return to the stage for the show's finale, Johannes Brahms' "Double Concerto."
"To have a guest artist and bring them back within a couple of years is pretty unusual and we've done that twice," says Linda Boyd, executive director of the FMSO. "The idea of having them come back a third time and having them perform together is quite a new twist."
There hasn't been a similar double-headlining bill in her 25 years with the FMSO, she says.
"It's kind of an all-star show with lots of virtuosic pieces."
'A challenging work'
As with all of the concerts, the lineup was conceived by Boyd and artistic director, conductor Christopher Zimmerman, who first introduced Chee-Yun and Antonov to the FMSO. The idea was first to have them pair up on "Double Concerto." It was then decided the stars needed to shine on their own.
Chee-Yun suggested "Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso" for her solo.
"It's considered one of the flashy virtuosic works for the violin. I love it," Chee-Yun says, adding that she first played it with the Seoul Philharmonic when she was 10 in her native Seoul, South Korea.
"It brings back good memories and the difficult times learning that piece as a 10-year-old, because it was a very challenging work. It still is a challenging work," she says. "After going through all of that hard work, you get rewarded with this brilliant piece of music that you get to enjoy performing and all of the audience members love it. It's a win-win situation and I'm glad I could bring that to Fargo next weekend."
As her playing has matured over the last 30 years, so has her approach to "Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso".
"People evolve and when you revisit a piece, your opinion has changed or you have different ideas and that's what often happens with music and musicians," she says. "I think about different colors. I think, what could I come up with the this one note, this phrase, this line? I could be thinking, how was I feeling? If I could have said this to him, what would I say? Maybe it's a conversation between myself and somebody else. My imagination has grown. As you experience life, you have more resources to pull from."
While she's on stage, she may be miles or years away in her head, where she often visualizes a different setting.
"Notes should be secondary. Once you're onstage, performing is really about a message. You bring people to your world and have people go into their own world and their imagination. It helps me to have some kind of storyline," she says.
"I often talk about that when I teach to my students," Chee-Yun adds. "It's not about the notes. Once you're on stage, you have to be Saint-Saëns. You have to be Brahms. You're playing their music. Imagine what they were going through. Relate your experience to it and bring your own color. That's how I communicate."
While the Hopper and Saint-Saëns pieces are real showstoppers, Boyd says the other compositions in the program, Antonín Dvořák's "Slavonic Dances from Op. 72, No. 2 & 7" and Franz Liszt's "Mephisto Waltz No. 1," weave the show together.
"Each of the orchestral pieces are dances, so there's this notion that the two soloists are circling around each other," Boyd says. "In the second half, it all comes together in this incredible double concerto by Brahms."
There's more of a storyline with Brahms' "Double Concerto," says Chee-Yun. The composer wrote the piece in 1887 for cellist Robert Hausmann and violinist Joseph Joachim. Brahms and Joachim had been good friends, but a rift split them after the composer sided with the violinist's ex-wife during their divorce. The composition is considered a reconciliation offering to Joachim.
Chee-Yun says the violin and cello are often in dialogue and she imagines the cello as Brahms' voice, sometimes briskly asserting itself.
She describes the second movement as "beautiful, lyrical," more of a conversation between the two instruments with some moments of intense dispute.
"The cello gets passionately argumentative," she says. "The violin says, 'It will all be OK.'"
If you go
What: Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra's Masterworks Concert
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 30
Where: Festival Concert Hall, 1511 12th Ave. N., North Dakota State University campus
Info: Tickets range from $30 to $50; 701-478-3676.