Simon Mulligan returns for the fourth time to open the La Crosse Symphony Orchestra’s 2018-19 season with Frederic Chopin’s second piano concerto as part of a centennial celebration of Poland’s independence.
The concert on Saturday, Oct. 20, features two Polish composers, Chopin and Witold Lutoslawski, and concludes with Beethoven’s second symphony.
“I chose Simon to come back to perform the Chopin concerto because no one plays this concerto with the finesse and passion like he does,” said Alexander Platt, who begins his ninth season as the orchestra’s conductor and music director. “He was the perfect pianist for this fabulous piece.”
Platt noted that Chopin didn’t write many “bona fide” orchestral works. “He was not comfortable with the orchestra,” Platt said.
Mulligan also gives a solo concert and tribute to Leonard Bernstein on Tuesday, Oct. 16, at the Weber Center for the Performing Arts. He will play improvisations on Bernstein’s music, including tunes from “Candide” and “West Side Story.”
“Simon is the Andre Previn of our time,” Platt said. “He’s uniquely adept at bridging the worlds of classical, pop, film music and jazz, and he will treat us with his own paraphrases and improvisations of Bernstein’s greatest hits.”
The LSO opens the first concert of the season with Lutoslawski’s “Symphonic Variations,” a short orchestral piece.
“The work is arresting and brilliant,” Platt said. “People may not know of Lutoslawski, but he is one of the great composers of his era.”
Some of Chopin’s music can be traced to the training exercises of Carl Czerny, a student of Beethoven, Platt said, noting the connection between Chopin and Beethoven.
“It was time to do a Beethoven symphony, and this one is one of my personal favorites,” he said. “It is a very exciting, happy and carefree work, and people will love the finale.”