Franz Schubert was born and lived nearly his entire life in Vienna. Jean Sibelius studied — and certainly partied — there. Richard Strauss, of course, lived, breathed and wrote Vienna.
Arild Remmereit, conductor for this weekend’s Masterworks concerts at the Philharmonic Center for the Arts, grew up in Vienna.
So there’s a natural linkage in the Viennese theme of the program, even if one of its pieces is the violin concerto of Sibelius, a Finnish composer.
The most immediate connection will be with the Norwegian-born Remmereit, who said he lived in Vienna “longer than I’ve lived anywhere else.”
What’s remarkable about that musical city, he thinks, is how many great composers studied there but how few call it home.
Schubert, above all, may have freely telegraphed its depths, Remmereit, suspects: “Schubert was all about beautiful music. He most of the time wrote for himself,” the maestro explained from his home in New York.
If you go
When: 8 p.m. Thursday, April 11, through Saturday, April 13
Where: Philharmonic Center for the Arts, 5833 Pelican Bay Blvd., North Naples
Admission: $35 to $70
To buy: thephil.org or 239-597-1900
“And it’s not as if he’s writing these symphonies on commission, like he had a deadline. They weren’t manufactured to meet a contract. In Mozart’s music, on the other hand, everything was on commission.”
“The Unfinished Symphony (on this program) wasn’t unfinished because he is lying down dying. Like many artists, he was so restless about how he lived” — a wanderlust possibly fueled by financial circumstances, Remmereit agrees — “that there is always this point of breaking up and moving to new places.”
Pieces get put aside when new inspiration takes over. And Schubert had little incentive to even finish a symphony, Remmereit added: “He was criticized at the time because he put in all these shocking harmonies.”
Yesterday’s discomfort is today’s staple, however. The Unfinished is considered the grandfather of the Romantic Movement, according to Remmereit.
Vienna leaves no one untouched, and that included Sibelius, who Remmereit believes carries away a bit of the city in his moody Violin Concerto, to be played here by Canadian-born virtuoso James Ehnes. Look for a waltz in the third movement.
But the real surprise will come with the Strauss program. The polkas might sound familiar, but his choice of waltz is one virtually unknown.
“It’s called ‘Where the Sea Runs Blue,’ and it’s my personal favorite,” he said. “I don’t know why it’s not as famous as the others, but perhaps it’s because it’s more introverted, more something you hold to yourself. Well, perhaps the word isn’t introverted, but fragile.”
Remmereit might come to Naples to find an island of peace as well as a professional visit; as with every other conductor here, he’s a potential candidate for the open post of music director. But Remmereit is currently at the center of a firestorm between part of the classic music community and the Rochester (N.Y.) Philharmonic Orchestra board of directors, who fired him Jan. 24, after 2½ years as its music director.
Some musicians have spoken out for him — although some others have spoken against him — and members of the concertgoing public have mounted a petition to reinstate him. There’s been a letter-writing campaign to local media. Several board members even resigned.
Remmereit seems nonplused by the dismissal.
“I moved my family here (to New York). It was a clear commitment to the project,” he said of his tenure there. “It’s been a very difficult journey for me because you have to search for a job, and I have a very specific belief in what a music director’s responsibilities are.”
Among them, he feels, to bring to his audiences some of the music that could have been famous; he programmed a year with a female composer’s work in each concert — “I like to learn about the community where I’m going to be, and I learned this was Susan B. Anthony’s home. I thought this is a city where strong women are part of its heritage.”
He says he also championed, and continues to champion, a strong educational program for children in classical music.
“Education can’t be just to invite the kids to a concert and if they like it, they like it,” he said.
If he doesn’t return to Rochester, however, Remmereit says he was satisfied with what he accomplished there. The orchestra was invited to perform in Carnegie Hall, and it won three awards for programming under his tenure: “If that isn’t successful, I don’t know what it is.”