In first live concert since the pandemic, Fresno State welcomes back classical music
Live classical music at Fresno State is back.
A little more than an hour after he received final approval from university officials, I received an email from Thomas Loewenheim. “I am very excited to tell you that the FOOSA Summer Academy will present two in-person programs this summer,” he wrote earlier this week. (He added: “It has been a while since I wrote to you, but decided to wait until I have something exciting to write about or share some good news.”)
The first FOOSA program has already started. It is a one-week intense chamber orchestra program that will culminate in a recording session and live concert open to the public at 8 p.m. Saturday, June 26, at the Fresno State Concert Hall. Admission is free. You can get your tickets here.
The ensemble of talented students will not be the massive force of musicians you might expect from FOOSA concerts in previous years. (The 2020 season had to be canceled, of course.) University COVID-19 restrictions shaped the size and composition of the ensemble. Musicians were limited to 20 string players and piano.
Still, Loewenheim was able to plan a program that will sound “big,” especially in the intimate Concert Hall. The Piano Sextet by Sergei Lyapunov, one of the offerings, is like listening to a large symphonic work by Tchaikovsky or Rachmaninoff,” he said.
Two other major works will be presented: Ernest Bloch’s Concerto Grosso No. 1 for string orchestra with piano obbligato; and Manuel De Falla’s “El Amor Brujo”: Pantomima & Danza ritual del fuego.
Audience members and performers will be required to be masked. Only 200 audience members will be allowed, which is less than the capacity of the hall.
The second FOOSA program is a Cello Intensive that will run July 6-16 and will include two performances: a faculty recital with Hatem Nadim and Lowenheim; and a student concert presenting the participants of the festival individually and within a cello ensemble on Friday, July 16.
It’ll be a big deal on Saturday for Loewenheim to return to the podium.
The last concert he conducted was the “Love Conquers All” concert with the Youth Orchestras of Fresno and Vadim Gluzman in February 2020.
“I remember vividly how Dean Chapman came to the dress rehearsal for the Department of Music’s Gala Concert in March 2020, just a day before the opening for the ambitious undertaking of Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana,” and made the announcement that the concerts were all postponed until further notice,” he says.
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The closest that Loewenheim has gotten to performing during the pandemic was in December when the Fresno State Chamber Orchestra got the opportunity to record two works for an online presentation.
“When I put my suit on before the recording session for the first time I was in tears from excitement,” he said. “I can imagine that standing in front of an audience and conducting the first few notes will be an intense emotional experience for all of us. We chose some of the most beautiful and intense music we could find for this concert and are sure the audience will enjoy hearing the live performance after such a long time.”