The Pennsylvania Chamber Orchestra opens its 2017-18 season on Sunday with “The Prodigies” concert. The orchestra promises a season “full of beauty, power and inspiration.”
“Our upcoming concert on Oct. 15 will explore the connection between three prodigies — Bach, Mendelssohn (who discovered Bach and brought his works back to the repertoire) and Mozart,” said Yaniv Attar, PCO music director. “Our soloist Solomiya Ivakhiv is a prodigy herself. That is an added bonus. She will play Mozart’s fifth violin concerto.”
Attar said he’s especially excited to present an orchestration of Mendelssohn’s Octet in the concert.
“It was originally written for only eight string players, and Yoon Jae Lee orchestrated it for a full orchestra,” he said. “This will be its first performance in State College.”
Each of the orchestra’s seasons is made up of three main concerts: “Messiah” performances for the holidays, smaller chamber concerts and a few educational and outreach events.
“When it comes to our orchestra concerts, since there are only three, we try to make sure that they are diverse and have a little bit of everything, so every person can find something in there — a little bit like a well-balanced meal, if you wish,” Attar said. “There are some lesser-known pieces, alongside some of the core repertoire of classical music, but everything is very audience-friendly.”
The PCO is the area’s only all-professional orchestra. There are about 35 musicians who play intimate, classical works from famous composers including Bach, Mozart, Handel and Beethoven.
“It’s a smaller group, much more intimate music and very, very attractive and pleasing to the general population who may not like the more epic, loud symphonic works,” said Susan Kroeker, executive director for the orchestra.
The accessibility of the performances to the general public is further enhanced by the orchestra’s outreach programs, both locally and outside Centre County. For example, with all three of this season’s soloists, master classes are offered for local youth.
“Young musicians who are in high school or junior high can have one-on-one coaching with them in a classroom setting, with other students watching and learning from these incredible musicians,” Kroeker said.
The orchestra regularly visits outlying locations to perform as well, such as Clearfield. The group also busses in audiences for performances of Handel’s “Messiah,” partnering with Fullington Trailways to bring individuals in from Clearfield, DuBois and Philipsburg. For $70, guests get a round-trip ticket, a seat at the show and a meal at a local restaurant.
Beyond the spectacular performances, which the PCO is already well known for, and the regular outreach, the group boasts something completely new this year — its venue.
“The biggest thing that we’re really thrilled about is the fact that we have a home for all of our concerts (this year). ...We usually play in different venues, such as churches and schools,” Kroeker said. “This year, The State Theatre asked if we would be interested in performing there, because they had rented some acoustic shells ... they asked us to invite some musicians last spring to test it out. When we did that, our professional musicians were very pleased with the improvement.”
Kroeker hopes the PCO’s new home results in an expanded audience.
“Already, I’ve noticed we’ve had more exposure, more excitement, and The State Theatre has been really great in helping us publicize,” she said. “We’re really hoping to bring in larger crowds, and I think people are in for a real treat this year.”
“(The PCO) is a wonderful ambassador of superb orchestral playing in State College, and there is nothing like the experience of hearing symphonic music live. We are thrilled to be performing all our concerts at The State Theatre,” he said.
Other concerts in the PCO’s 2017-18 season include Handel’s “Messiah” on Dec. 10, “The Best of Beethoven” on Feb. 18 and “The French Connection” on April 22.
IF YOU GO
- What: Pennsylvania Chamber Orchestra’s “The Prodigies”
- When: 3 p.m. Sunday
- Where: The State Theatre, 130 W. College Ave., State College
- Info: www.CentreOrchestra.org