Duane Funderburk will perform the Piano Concerto in A Minor at the Everett Philharmonic’s May 6 concert. (submitted photo)

Duane Funderburk will perform the Piano Concerto in A Minor at the Everett Philharmonic’s May 6 concert. (submitted photo)

Philharmonic musical themes: ‘Love, death, struggle, freedom’

Guest pianist Duane Funderburk will perform a “phenomenal” Piano Concerto in A Minor.

Once each year, the Everett Philharmonic Orchestra has a type of “people’s choice” program, compositions the group has been asked to perform.

This year’s choices: melodies reflecting the emotions of love, death, struggle, freedom and romanticism.

All this in one concert — its last of the season — May 6.

“If people need to be uplifted, there’s nothing better than a concert,” said Paul-Elliott Cobbs, the orchestra’s music director.

The concert features works by Finnish, Danish and German composers — Carl Nielsen, Robert Schumann and Jean Sibelius​.

Duane Funderburk, the guest pianist in Schumann’s “Piano Concerto in A Minor,” has strong ties to Everett, formerly working at Bethany Christian Assembly as its music director.

The program begins with the “Helios Overture” by Nielsen, what Cobbs called “probably the foremost Danish composer.” The work brought Nielsen worldwide recognition.

It was written when Nielsen traveled to Greece with his wife, a sculptor, who was there to copy some of the works in the Acropolis.

He found a room with a piano and a view of Athens. “He’d get up and watch the sunrise over the Aegean Sea and watch it set over the Mediterranean,” Cobbs said.

It begins with the low hum of bass and cello, followed by French horn, signaling sunrise. By the time the sun reaches noon, the full orchestra including brass and percussion are involved.

It ends — quietly — at sunset, the scenes musically “painted” in 10 minutes.

The request to perform the composition came from one of the orchestra’s members.

Funderburk, the guest pianist, is a Seattle Pacific University graduate who went on to earn his doctorate of musical arts degree from the University of Southern California in collaborative piano.

He previously has performed the Schumann piano concerto with the Wenatchee Valley Symphony Orchestra and in his hometown of Pasadena, California.

“It’s my favorite,” Funderburk said. “It’s a phenomenal piece.”

He said he learned the piece from longtime University of Washington professor Randolph Hokanson, now 102 and living in Seattle. Funderburk said he recently visited his former professor, who gave him another lesson on it.

Funderburk said he looks forward to reuniting with Cobbs, whom he has known for more than 30 years.

Schumann composed the piano concerto as a type of love story for his wife Clara, Cobbs said.

The concert ends with Sibelius’s “Symphony No. 2 in D Major.” The story behind the composition is that at the time Finland was under the thumb of Russia, and there was a national movement for independence.

When the composer included a war hymn in the piece, it fanned patriotic fervor, similar to what Americans feel when they sing the national anthem, Cobbs said.

Its second movement is about death, and the third is about resurrection, he said. The composition flows without break directly into the fourth movement. Its scale-like passages are sometimes called the wheel of fate, he said, with a sad melody in a minor musical key transitioning to a D major “the happiest key of all,” with the trumpets doing fanfares, Cobbs said.

“Death, then struggle and then there’s victory — it’s all in one symphony,” Cobbs said.

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or salyer@heraldnet.com.

If you go

The Everett Philharmonic Orchestra’s final concert of its current season, “Listener’s Choice,” is scheduled from 3-5 p.m. May 6 at the Everett Civic Auditorium, 2414 Colby Ave. Stage side chat on the concert begins at 2 p.m. Tickets: General admission $25, adults 62 and older and active military, $20, youth and students with identification, $10 children under 12 free with adult. More info: 206-270-9729 or www.everettphil.org/

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