Southwest Symphony’s ‘Treasure Chest of Pops’ showcases piano talents of Sam Kreitzer

Pianist Sam Kreitzer poses with a piano in this promotional photo. Location and date not specified | Photo courtesy of Southwest Symphony, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – Southwest Symphony Orchestra is pleased to present “Treasure Chest of Pops” featuring former Pine View High School student and accomplished pianist Sam Kreitzer. Kreitzer joins the symphony as the featured soloist, performing composer George Gershwin’s famous piece “Rhapsody in Blue.”

The concert will take place Friday at 7:30 p.m. in the Cox Performing Arts Center on the Dixie State University Campus.

About Sam Kreitzer

While a student at Pine View High School, Kreitzer played piano for jazz band and was a member of the concert and pep bands, concert choir and Trilogy, Pine View’s award-winning honor vocal ensemble. He consistently received top ratings for solo and ensemble festivals at region and state competitions.

My family is very musical,” Kreitzer said, “and being the sixth child, I picked up playing the piano early on. … I love music! I play the piano every day now and have fun doing it.”

Kreitzer just completed his senior recital this past month at Dixie State University to the applause of his piano professor, Nancy Larson Allred.

Allred’s Facebook entry on Kreitzer’s page reads: “How wonderful to hear your beautiful sound, amazing artistry, and brilliant technique! What a fabulous evening! Bravo!”

Maestro Gary Caldwell, who conducts the Southwest Symphony Orchestra, echoed Allred’s comments and described Kreitzer as a “marvelous, disciplined musician and one who masterfully interprets the Gershwin style — that blend of pop and jazz and the classics.”

We have planned a grand evening,” Caldwell said.

History of “Rhapsody in Blue”

If George Gershwin (1898-1937) had a signature trademark motif in “Rhapsody in Blue,” it may well be the clarinet glissando that opens the work. That, however, certainly does not diminish the magnificence of the piano in this famous masterpiece, a work that has continued to thrill listeners since its premiere in 1924, when Gershwin played it with Paul Whiteman and his musicians at New York City’s Aeolian Hall.

Some disparaged the concerto yet loved it at the same time, among them Leonard Bernstein, who described it as “not a composition at all, but a string of . . . terrific tunes . . . stuck together with a thin paste of flour and water.”

Of the popular glissando, Whiteman’s clarinetist, Ross Gorman, during rehearsals played the opening as a joke — Gershwin had written it as a 17-note ascending scale — yet Gershwin found Gorman’s version so compelling he made it a permanent part of the score.

No more than six weeks passed from the time Whiteman commissioned Gershwin to compose the work and the time Gershwin performed it with Whiteman. Gershwin was headed to Boston and conceived this famous piano concerto while on a train.

Gershwin said:

I had already done some work on the rhapsody.  It was on the train, with its steely rhythms, its rattle-ty bang, that is often so stimulating for a composer.

Due to his tight schedule, Gershwin did not have time to write out the piano solo passages but rather improvised and played from memory. Whiteman, who was conducting, had an understanding that Gershwin would signal with a nod when the solos were finished and each orchestral segment was to begin.

Many listeners will recognize this work as the signature music of United Airlines, used in commercials and on board planes beginning in 1987. Unlike older classical compositions, the piece is not in the public domain, so United Airlines paid a licensing fee of $300,000 per year.  For United, the recognizable and elegant rendition helped brand the airline as trustworthy while soothing passengers in potentially stressful circumstances.

“Rhapsody in Blue” established Gershwin’s reputation as a serious composer and has since become one of the most identifiable and appealing modern works.

Southwest Symphony “Treasure Chest of Pops” organizers believe that Kreitzer’s passion, combined with Gershwin’s appealing monumental work, should make for an enjoyable occasion. In addition to the “Rhapsody,” Caldwell says the symphony will play an amazing variety of works, including “Hooked on Classics,” “The Cowboys Overture,” “Theme from Mission Impossible,” “Variations on America” and many more.

Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and $5 for students and can be purchased through the Dixie State University website or by calling the ticketing office at 435-652-7800.

Event details

  • What: Southwest Symphony’s “Treasure Chest of Pops”
  • When: Friday, May 13, 7:30 p.m.
  • Where: Cox Performing Arts Center, Dixie State University Campus, 225 S. 700 East, St. George
  • Tickets: Adults, $15; seniors, $12; students, $5
  • Resources: Southwest Symphony website

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Twitter: @STGnews

 

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