Strauss, Ravel, Beethoven. Three epic pieces by these three epic composers will be featured as the Harvard Radcliffe Orchestra, under the direction of Federico Cortese, performs an exciting and energetic repertoire at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 1, in Sanders Theatre. In anticipation of the HRO upcoming Junior Parent’s Weekend concert, I spoke with assistant conductor Maxwell Phillips ’15, a music and Germanic languages and literature concentrator in Kirkland House, about the concert’s challenging program, the piece he is conducting and his musical aspirations beyond Harvard.
Can you describe Saturday’s program? How is this repertoire different from past concerts you have played with HRO?
There are three pieces on the program. First, we’re playing Don Juan, which is a tone poem by Richard Strauss. Then I’m conducting a piece called The Rapsodie Espagnole by Maurice Ravel, and then we’re doing Eroica, which is Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony. It’s a really exciting program because all of the music is extremely energetic, extremely difficult and extremely beautiful. And it’s also all extremely fun to play, so we’re very excited for this program. And a little terrified. It’s harder and longer than usual. We play only four concerts a year, so we try to pick only really, really good repertoire, which is a luxury you have in a college orchestra, and this is a great example of that. All of the pieces are amazing, and they are so much fun to play.
How has HRO Conductor Cortese been a mentor for you throughout this process?
I’m taking Fed’s class and I also took it last year, so he’s my teacher in an official capacity as well as through this arrangement.
You have conducted for HRO before. What has been unique about this experience?
What’s been very different about this experience is that the piece is much larger than what I’ve conducted before, and also the orchestra is much better than anyone else I’ve ever worked with, so it’s been much more a question of fine tuning things, of fixing balances, of making music, and of trying to get all the notes and the intonation in place. It’s been a lot of fun for me.
Ravel’s Rapsodie Espagnole is notoriously challenging. Why this piece?
I picked Ravel because I love Ravel, I love this piece and because it requires a very large and a very good orchestra. And it’s Read more…