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The KPAC Blog features classical music news, reviews, and analysis from South Texas and around the world.

Mid-Texas' Season Opener A Showcase For Whole Orchestra

"Scheherazade," by Édouard Frédéric Wilhelm Richter (1844-1913)
Wikimedia commons
"Scheherazade," by Édouard Frédéric Wilhelm Richter (1844-1913)

This weekend, the Mid-Texas Symphony returns to full-scale concerts, performing live in Jackson Auditorium, their home base on the campus of Texas Lutheran University in Seguin. The orchestra’s season in 2020 had been cut short by the pandemic, and when musicians did return to the stage earlier this year, they did so under COVID-19 conditions, with a smaller ensemble.

The concert on Sunday includes Jean Sibelius’s “Finlandia,” Alessandro Marcello’s Oboe Concerto in C minor, and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade,” which Mid-Texas’ Music Director, Akiko Fujimoto, characterizes as a “concerto for orchestra” that brilliantly showcases the entire ensemble.

Besides her work with the Mid-Texas Symphony, Akiko Fujimoto stays busy conducting orchestras across the country, including upcoming gigs in Florida, Virginia, and Vermont this fall. She says the time away from Texas strengthens her bond to her home base.

“When I go back to the Mid-Texas Symphony, I'm more refreshed and I have new ideas and I don't fall into a rut,” she said recently in a phone call. “I think it's really important for a music director to see a different orchestra once in a while, while you cultivate an ongoing relationship with your home orchestra.”

Read on for an excerpt of my interview with Akiko Fujimoto, and listen to the audio in the player above to hear our full-length conversation about the upcoming season of the Mid-Texas Symphony.

Nathan Cone: I want to start off by asking how the concerts in the spring went. You had a return to live in-person concerts, and how did that go?

Akiko Fujimoto: They went so well! I'm still kind of reeling from how well they went. And I'm very grateful to our musicians who stepped up and played—obviously socially distanced, and many of them masked. And we adapted repertoire and the size of the ensemble so quickly. They just remain very flexible, and they put on great shows all three times. The first one was just live stream and no live audience. The second one in late March… we were so glad to be joined by a limited, socially distanced, live audience. It was just so great to be reunited with our patrons.

I thought it was interesting that the San Antonio Symphony, it seems, took the fact that they had to reduce forces almost as an opportunity to showcase some repertoire that worked well in that smaller setting. How did you feel about the sound and the feel of the ensemble in that in that smaller setting?

Liz Garza Williams
Mid-Texas Symphony Music Director, Akiko Fujimoto

You know, I agree with you. I saw some of the San Antonio Symphony programing and I was very impressed by the variety of chamber orchestra works that they programed. And it was the same for us. It's stuff we don't usually do because we like to feature a big 70-piece orchestra. But we took this opportunity to program for smaller ensembles, including some chamber music and chamber ensembles. And the silver lining was that we got to hear more individual sounds and we got to make music on a more intimate level with each other, obviously for some of the chamber works. There was no conductor, too. So it really showcased a different level of music making for the musicians… and creativity. It was very good for our brains, I think, and hearts and just kind of refreshing. But we are ready to go back to our bread and butter repertoire.

Well, you do have a really great piece coming up on the 12th of September, a really gigantic romantic sounding piece with “Scheherazade” from Rimsky Korsakov, a fantastic piece.

Absolutely. “Scheherazade” is really... I think of it as a concerto for the orchestra. It showcases every section and especially highlights the concertmaster, the harp as the voice of Scheherazade telling the stories, you know, the Arabian Nights. Every single instrument is showcased, if not every section in the orchestra. And it's a tour de force for the orchestra. So I'm very excited to feature everybody, and we've been waiting for a long time to do this or at least a year because we were supposed to do this last September.

And Jennifer Berg, of course, is going to be playing an oboe concerto by Marcello on the program.

Yes, I'm very excited about this. Again, Jennifer was supposed to solo on this piece last September. We're happy to bring her back for this, finally! And the Marcello is a beautiful work. The second movement, the slow movement, gets used sometimes in movie soundtracks, so it might be very familiar to some listeners. Once we get to the second movement, they might say, “Oh, I know that one!”

The Mid-Texas Symphony opens their 2021/22 season on Sunday, September 12 at Jackson Auditorium in Seguin. Showtime is 4:00. For more information, visit mtsymphony.org.