The New Jersey Capital City Philharmonic (NJCCP) gets intimate for its spring concert on Saturday, April 2, at the War Memorial Building in Trenton.
Promising a more up close and personal presentation, the orchestra performs in the 1930 Historic Registry building’s Art Deco ballroom — appointed with stage and balcony.
The personal comes from the real-life relationship between featured performer, pianist Gabriela Imreh, and her husband, NJCCP music director and conductor Daniel Spalding.
The couple — featured last year in U.S. 1’s Valentine’s Day issue for their forbidden love story set behind the Iron Curtain (U.S. 1, February 11, 2015) — have been making music in the capital city since NJCCP took the place of the financially ailing Trenton Symphony Orchestra in 2013. The two recently moved to the Mill Hill section of the city.
The Philadelphia Inquirer cited a performance by the Romanian-born Imreh as “hard to resist” because “she doesn’t buy into the imposing pretensions of the more virtuosic stuff. Though she can summon thundering, steel-fingered bass notes, it’s the distilled delicacy of her treble playing that tells you she’s a world-class talent.”
In his review of one of Imreh’s recordings, New York Times critic Harold Schonberg called the academy-trained pianist “something of a throwback to the old romantic style,” one who uses “her warm piano sound to good advantage” and “a lyricist who sings her way through these lovely Liszt pieces with real personality. In short, this Romanian pianist is a surprise package, and the faithful recorded sound sets her delicious playing off to best advantage.”
Conductor Spalding, originally from Wichita, Kansas, met Imreh in Rumania when he was guest conducting in 1985. “We met backstage,” he says in a past interview. “It was love at first sight. We met on a Tuesday. Then I had to leave and the next time I saw her I proposed. Gabriela is a concert pianist and had her own career. We managed to arrange some concerts together. It is all very romantic. We had the secret police follow us. I had to write to get letters from U.S. legislators to marry. It was all very scary.”
The couple married and moved to the United States, where he conducted and she performed. They came to the Trenton region in 1988 when Spalding accepted the position of orchestra conductor at Trenton State College (now the College of New Jersey) “I did that for five years. I started my own chamber orchestra in Philadelphia (Philadelphia Virtuosi Orchestra) and have been concentrating on that orchestra for over 20 years. Right now I am concentrating my time on these orchestras. I had some guest conducting here and there, but right now most of my time is on these projects.” Imreh, an American citizen since 1992, is an international guest, recording artist, and now writer.
Last performing together with the NJCCP during its 2013 New Year’s Eve Concert, the two are joining to present a program that includes two works for piano and orchestra: 20th century Argentine tango composer and bandoneon player Astor Piazzolla’s lyrical “Adios Nonino” (Farewell Grandfather) and celebrated Amercian composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein’s groundbreaking Broadway composition “West Side Story Suite.”
The orchestra will also perform Rossini’s overture to the “Barber of Seville,” Mozart’s “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” (A Little Night Music), and Aaron Copeland’s “Hoe Down” from “Rodeo.”
New Jersey Capital Philharmonic with Gabriela Imreh, War Memorial Patriots Theater, 1 Memorial Drive, Trenton, Saturday, April 2, 7:30 p.m. $30 to $65. 215-893-1999 or www.capitalphilharmonic.org.