Musicians vanish, gender wars rage at PRCO concert
Kathleen and Peter Van de Graaff
‘From a Farewell to a Kiss’
Park Ridge Civic Orchestra, Pickwick Theatre, 5 South Prospect Ave., Park Ridge
2:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 10
General admission $25; $20 for students over 18
and seniors 62 and older. Children 18 and younger are admitted free
(847) 692-7726 or visit parkridgecivicorchestra.org
Updated: February 6, 2013 10:42AM
“The “Farewell” is Haydn’s Symphony No. 45, a work unique in that composer’s vast output.
It seems that Haydn’s patron Prince Esterhazy had kept the court musicians for an extended time at his summer palace. The men, missing their wives, wanted to return home. So in the final movement of the piece, musicians one by one left the stage, until Haydn and his concertmaster were the only ones left.
“The prince got the message,” said Edgar Muenzer, founder and music director emeritus of the Park Ridge Civic Orchestra, adding that the whole court moved back to its original home the next day. The orchestra, under his baton, will play Symphony No. 45, complete with vanishing musicians, next Sunday.
The “Kiss” portion of the title refers to Cole Porter’s lively 1948 Broadway musical “Kiss Me Kate.” excerpts of which will be sung by the husband and wife team of Kathleen and Peter Van de Graaff.
“There will be some wonderful songs,” explained Muenzer, who was first violinist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for 47 years. “It is Cole Porter’s greatest hit and the only of his musicals to run more than 1,000 performances on Broadway.” That show won five Tony Awards in 1949, including Best Musical and Best Original Score for Porter. Its 1999 Broadway revival won five more Tony Awards in 2000, including Best Revival of a Musical.
Despite the age of the show, PRCO was very limited by copyright restrictions, Muenzer revealed. “One requirement was that some of the numbers be accompanied only by keyboard,” he said, “and of course we will comply.”
Van de Graaff loves to sing the songs in “Kate,” no matter the restrictions. “I think it is the greatest musical ever written,” he insisted. “The music is so beautiful and Cole Porter’s lyrics just blow away everyone else.”
Songs on the Sunday program include “So in Love,” “Wunderbar,” “I Hate Men,” to be sung by Kathleen, and “Where is the Life of Late I Led?” a number for Peter.
The show is based on Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew,” and places the war between the sexes in a modern setting. One of its most entertaining numbers is “Brush Up Your Shakespeare.”
“In the full show that is sung by two gangsters,” said Van de Graaff, “but it’s so much fun that Kathleen and I are going to sing it together.”
In addition the afternoon program will include Hindemith’s powerful “Symphonic Metamorphosis” on Themes by Carl Maria von Weber.
“We had a fund-raiser and one of the auction items was the opportunity to choose a piece for our orchestra to play,” said Muenzer, who was named 2002 Conductor of the Year by the Illinois Council of Orchestras for his work in Park Ridge. “Our clarinetist Matthew Haster selected the Hindemith and won the bidding. So we are playing that.”
The community orchestra has about 60 members, but seven more have been added for this program. “The Pickwick was built as a movie theater, so the stage is not very large,” Muenzer concluded. “That’s about all the musicians we can fit.”
Kathleen Van de Graaff has sung with the Chicago Opera Theater, Milwaukee Opera Company, and Music of the Baroque, and with organizations in 33 of the United States. She and her husband Peter have traveled to Europe collecting early 18th Century chamber operas, and have given modern premieres in this country, Costa Rica and Asia, as well as on live broadcasts over WFMT, Chicago. She teaches at Lake Forest College.
Peter Van de Graaff, who recently returned from a seven-concert tour in China, was appointed program director of WFMT in December. He has been a soloist in Salzburg’s International Vocal Symposium and sang with the Czech State Symphony, under Paul Freeman. He has appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Houston Symphony, the Omaha Symphony, and many other American orchestras, working under conductors such as Pierre Boulez, Thomas Wikman, Jane Glover, Victor Yampolsky, Daniel Hege, and Nicholas Kraemer.
The Park Ridge Civic Orchestra is in the midst of its 19th season. Music director is Victor Muenzer, who shares conducting duties with his father. The organization recently hired Deborah Oberschelp, former personnel manager of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, as executive director.
Concerts remaining in the season include “From Spain to Scotland, the Mendelssohn Way,” conducted by Edgar Muenzer with David Perry as violin soloist on March 10 and “A Journey to Freedom,” Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, conducted by with Victor Muenzer on April 28.