National Repertory Orchestra: “Pink Concert” of Tchaikovsky for a cause

Amy Skjerseth
Special to the Daily
Variations on a Rococo Theme will feature cello soloist Sean Hawthorne, who has just completed his undergraduate studies at The Juilliard School.
Special to the Daily |

If you go

What: National Repertory Orchestra Presents “Chiefly Tchaikovsky,” a “Pink Concert” in support of the Shaw Regional Cancer Center, featuring the music of Tchaikovsky, with Nicholas Hersh, assistant conductor and Sean Hawthorne, cello

Where: Breckenridge Riverwalk Center

When: 11 a.m. Sunday

Cost: $25 to $40, depending on seating

More information: Wear pink in support of the Shaw Regional Cancer Center. For ticket information and purchase, call the Riverwalk Center Box Office at (970) 547-3100 or visit

The Breckenridge-based National Repertory Orchestra will play a special “Pink Concert,” titled “Chiefly Tchaikovsky,” in support of the Shaw Regional Cancer Center on Sunday at 11 a.m.

Assistant conductor Nicholas Hersh will lead the NRO musicians in two works by Tchaikovsky: Symphony in E Minor and Variations on a Rococo Theme. The latter work will feature cello soloist Sean Hawthorne.

“As a cellist myself, I’m particularly looking forward to working with Sean on Rococo, one of the pillars of the solo repertoire that I’ve known and loved well for many years,” said Hersh, who is conducting his third concert of the National Repertory Orchestra 2013 season. “As for the Fifth Symphony — it’s a complete emotional palette, representing Tchaikovsky at his most tempestuous, his most vulnerable and his most exuberant. I couldn’t be more excited to perform it with such skilled colleagues.”

Have your dessert first

First, the audience will hear a piece that is often described to concertgoers as “dessert” — Variations on a Rococo Theme, which is one of the greatest solos in the cello repertoire. Although Tchaikovsky claimed he was Russian, through and through, he greatly admired both Baroque music and Mozart and wrote elements from both into the piece.

“The principal melody of the solo cello heard early in the first variation has the grace and delicate structure of a Mozart theme,” said Douglas Adams, CEO of the National Repertory Orchestra. “Seven variations follow, all of them in 18th century Baroque style.”

The 18-minute work will feature cello soloist Hawthorne, who has just completed his undergraduate studies with Richard Aaron at The Juilliard School. Next year, Hawthorne will attend the Royal Conservatoire of The Hague with Michel Strauss and Jan-Ype Nota. In 2009, Hawthorne received a two-year fellowship from the Aspen Music Festival and School. He has served as principal cellist of numerous orchestras, including the Juilliard Chamber Orchestra, the Chautauqua Music Festival Symphony Orchestra and the Empire State Youth Orchestra.

“Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme is a unique stylistic challenge,” Hawthorne said. “While being a romantic piece at heart, a successful performance requires an exploration of romantic expression, as well as an understanding of the Rococo style on which the theme is based. The solo part tests the cellist’s capabilities in both a lyrical and virtuosic sense. I am tremendously excited to begin collaboration with Nicholas Hersh and the NRO on this integral piece of the cello repertoire.”

Following the Rococo Variations — our “dessert first” — the NRO will perform Symphony No. 5 in E Minor, the “meat and potatoes” of the program. Tchaikovsky completed his Fifth Symphony more than a decade after the Rococo Variations, in 1888. Initial reviews of the work were quite negative, most likely due to the fact that Tchaikovsky himself conducted the premiere. However, the Fifth ultimately became quite popular and even Tchaikovsky later commented that it was actually better than he had first thought.

“The symphony has a recurring theme, which opens in the first movement as a somber, brooding melody,” Adams wrote in the concert’s program notes. “The theme appears in all four movements, and at the conclusion in the fourth movement, it is exultant, an expression of victory over strife. Probably because of that, the Fifth Symphony was exceptionally popular in Russia during World War II.”

Combatting cancer

Shaw Regional Cancer Center, a service of the nonprofit Vail Valley Medical Center, is a cancer care facility located in Edwards that provides treatment and survivorship programming for patients who are looking for individualized care in a unique healing environment. Shaw is renowned for its holistic, personalized approach to cancer treatment and recovery.

“I am honored by the National Repertory Orchestra’s support of Shaw Regional Cancer Center,” said Peggy Carey, vice president of oncology at the Shaw Center. “The experts at Shaw have been treating patients from Summit County for nearly 12 years, allowing them to stay up in the mountains we all love and still receive the best treatment possible.”

For more information about Shaw Regional Cancer Center, visit or call (970) 569-7429.

Amy Skjerseth is the marketing and public relations intern with the National Repertory Orchestra.

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