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UW Symphony with Sunny Xia, Paul Rafanelli

Friday, March 8, 2024 - 7:30pm
$10 all tickets.
  • UW Symphony Orchestra detail (Photo: Mark Stone/UW Photography).
    UW Symphony Orchestra detail (Photo: Mark Stone/UW Photography).

David Alexander Rahbee conducts the University of Washington Symphony in a program of music by Eugene d’Albert, W.A. Mozart, Alexander Borodin, and Igor Stravinsky. With guest conductor Sunny Xia (Seattle Symphony) and faculty bassoonist Paul Rafanelli. 


Eugen d’Albert (1864-1932): Prelude to Tiefland, op.34

W.A. Mozart (1756-1791): Bassoon Concerto in B-flat major, K.191
I. Allegro
II. Andante ma adagio
III. Rondo: Tempo di menuetto

Paul Rafanelli, bassoon


Alexander Borodin (1869-1887): Polovtsian Dances from Prince Igor
Ryan Farris, conductor

Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971): Suite from The Firebird (1919 version)
Sunny Xia, conductor

Program Notes

by Mica Weiland  

Eugen d’Albert (1864-1932): Tiefland, op. 34: Prelude (1924)
Eugen d’Albert was a Scottish-born pianist and composer. At the age of 17, he won a scholarship to continue his musical studies in Austria. It was there that he discovered his affinity for Austro-German music and culture. He then moved to Germany where he became a student of Franz Liszt and began his career as a concert pianist. It was also during this time that d’Albert shifted his focus to composing, producing a variety of piano, vocal, chamber, and orchestral works as well as twenty-one operas. He was also a respected editor and interpreter of German music, specifically the music of J.S. Bach. He was married six times, his second wife being Venezuelan composer and pianist Teresa Carreño. In 1914 he relocated to Switzerland and gained citizenship. He died in 1932 in Latvia, where he had travelled to obtain a divorce from his sixth wife.   

The opera Tiefland (The Lowlands) was composed and premiered in 1903, and it was only in 1924 that d’Albert decided to and extract and extend the prelude as an independent symphonic work. A shepherd in the mountains sets out to find a bride. He throws a rock to the lowlands and the house that the rock hits is where he will find her. They marry before returning to the mountains together. The overture opens with a clarinet solo and highlights a rich orchestral texture that is pastoral in nature. This opera is commonly performed in Germany and Austria and remains a part of their standard repertoire.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791): Bassoon Concerto in B-flat major, K. 191 (1774)
One of the most recognizable names in the western classical tradition, Mozart composed over six-hundred works during his short life. He composed for every western classical genre including the opera, symphonic, chamber, and concertante genres. His bassoon concerto was written in 1774 when Mozart was just 18 years old and was his first concerto written for a wind instrument. This piece has established itself as one of the most studied and performed pieces in the bassoon repertoire.

The first movement is in a standard sonata form with a lively orchestral introduction. Movement two is slow and lyrical, Mozart used a theme from this movement in an aria at the beginning of act two of his opera The Marriage of Figaro. Finally, the concerto ends with a spirited rondo, bringing a joyful conclusion to the work. 

Alexander Borodin (1833-1887): Polovtsian Dances from Prince Igor (1869-1875)
Borodin was born in Russia in 1833 and became interested in music at an early age. He was homeschooled by his mother and took to playing the piano and staging plays during this time. As a teenager, he developed a concurrent love for science and entered the St. Petersburg Medical-Surgical Academy where he specialized in chemistry. A chemist by trade, Borodin still managed to join the “Mighty Handful,” a group of Russian composers that influenced the trajectory of Russian music. Since Borodin was dedicated to science and music, his compositional output is smaller than that of other composers. He completed two symphonies, assorted chamber music, and worked for years on his opera Prince Igor. 

Prince Igor may be his most well-known work, but it was not finished at the time of his death in 1887. He started work on the piece in 1869 and worked on it intermittently over the next 18 years. It was premiered in 1890 after being completed by his colleagues Alexander Glazunov and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. The Polovtsian Dances take place after the titular character is taken captive by the Polovtsian Khan. To lift the spirits of the prince, the Khan orders a group of dancers to entertain him. The piece begins with the servants’ song, reminiscing about their homeland. The dances pick up in jest and vigor, following the dancers as they perform for the prince. The dance of the men is loud and festive, while the dance of the maidens is simple and sweet. Even though it is scored for orchestra with chorus, it is commonly performed without the chorus. The lush orchestration, complex tone colors, and lively character make this work enticing on the operatic stage and in the concert hall.   

Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971): Suite from The Firebird (1919)
Igor Stravinsky was a pivotal figure in 20th century music and the development of western instrumental music. A notable facet of his career, Stravinsky had an enduring relationship with the Ballet Russes of which The Firebird was its first commission. Stravinsky was unestablished as a composer before this, but his success and artistry were cemented overnight after the premiere. The Firebird premiered in 1910 with a much larger orchestration, but when he extracted this suite, he reduced the orchestration, without losing any of its opulence. 

The story of The Firebird is drawn from old Russian folklore and depicts a beautiful, rare bird whose' feathers shimmer like flames and her defeat of an evil wizard, Katchei the Deathless. Katchei captures beautiful young princesses and turns the knights who attempt to rescue them into stone. Prince Ivan, the story’s protagonist, and the firebird work together to banish Katchei and free his victims. 

The introduction begins with a theme in the low strings that symbolize Prince Ivan stumbling upon the enchanted garden of Katchei. Ivan discovers the firebird in the garden, represented by the fast trills and frenzied music that follow. The princesses captured by Katchei are observed by the prince in their ritual round dance which begins with a serene melody in the upper woodwinds. The delicate, idyllic nature of this movement is quickly crushed by the entrance of Katchei and the beginning of the Infernal Dance. Here, the firebird casts a spell in order to protect Ivan, forcing Katchei and his aides to dance themselves to exhaustion. A lullaby then lulls the wizard to sleep, and an optimistic call from the french horn announces the arrival of a new day. The finale follows the rescued captives and Prince Ivan celebrating their freedom as the piece draws to a euphoric conclusion. 

University of Washington Symphony Orchestra

David Alexander Rahbee, Music Director and Conductor
Ryan Farris and Daren Weissfisch, Assistant Conductors

Katelyn Campbell, Flute Performance/Biochemistry
Grace Jun, MM Flute Performance
Erin McAfee, MM Flute Performance
Rachel Reyes, DMA Flute Performance

Katelyn Campbell, Flute Performance/Biochemistry
Grace Jun, MM Flute Performance
Erin McAfee, MM Flute Performance

Max Boyd, Oboe Performance
Lauren Majewski, BA Global & Regional Studies

English Horn
Kamil Tarnawczyk, Alum

Ysanne Webb, DMA Clarinet Performance
Nick Zhang, BS Computer Science

Bass Clarinet
Ysanne Webb, Mathematics

Ryan Kapsandy, BM Bassoon Performance
Griffin Smith, Music/Philosophy
Eric Shankland, BA Music History
Eric Spradling, BM Bassoon Performance

Griffin Smith, Music/Philosophy

Nicole Bogner, Horn Performance
Ben Johnson, MM Horn Performance
Colin Laskarzewski, BS Physics
Yihan Li, Music
Sam Nutt, Molecular & Cellular Biology
Noelani Stewart, BA Political Science

Hans Faul, Trumpet Performance
Kyle Jenkins, MM Trumpet Performance
Daniel Lyons, Trumpet Performance

Peter Lin, ACMS
Nathanael Wyttenbach, Music Composition 

Bass Trombone
Duncan Weiner, Aero/Astro Engineering, Linguistics

Joel Horton, MM Tuba Performance
Adam Mtimet, DMA Tuba Performance
Foster Patterson, Music Education

Kaisho Barnhill, Music Education
Abigail George, Applied Physics

Ryan Baker, Music Education
Kaisho Barnhill, Music Education
Momoka Fukushima, Music (Percussion)
Abigail George, Applied Physics
Melissa Wang, MM Percussion

Piano & Celesta
Chiao-Yu Wu, DMA Piano Performance

Kelly Hou, Informatics/Harp Performance
Angie Kong, Alum

Violin I
Grace Pandra, Violin Performance (Concertmaster)
Shinyoung Hwang, Engineering/Violin Performance
Tia-Jane Fowler, Computer Science/Music
Brooke Chen, Public Health
Ido Avnon, Computer Science/Education
Giulia Rosa, Violin Performance
Justin Chae, Computer Science
Alexander Metzger, Computer Science
David Mok, Computer Engineering
Amelie Martin, Physics/Mathematics
Ethan Wu, Biochemistry
Kara Johnson, Archeological Sciences
Quentin Brydon, Pre-Nursing
Hao Xu, Computer Science
Kai-En Cheng, Economics
Maya DaSilva, Music/Law Societies & Justice
Nagato Orita, Pre-Major
Lyle Deng, Computer Science

Violin II
Hanu Nahm, Violin Performance/BS Microbiology (Principal)
Nicole Chen, Informatics
Sean Sasaki, Music Education
Thea Higgins, Industrial Engineering
Brandon Bailey, Computer Science
Zak Azar, Pre-Major
Alice Leppert, Chemistry
Terra Bronson, ECFS
Allison Kam, Speech and Hearing Sciences/Linguistics
Kate Everling, Mathematics
Victoria Zhuang, Pre Sciences
Mia Grayson, Pre-Sciences
Fengrui Liu, Pre-Social Health
Felicia Yeh, Business Administration
Kevin Lu, Computer Science
Hannah Pena-Ruiz, Music History 

Flora Cummings, Viola Performance/Biology (Principal)
Mica Weiland, Viola Performance
Amy Lu, Informatics
Abigail Schidler, Computer Science
Aribella Brushie, Pre-Science
Helen Hauschka, Pre Social Sciences
Melany Nanayakkara, Mathematics
David Del Cid-Saavedra, Education Studies
Melia Golden, Pre-Humanities
Alissa Harbani, Bioengineering/Music

Sarah Johnson, Cello Performance (Principal)
Cory Chen, Pre-Sciences
Nathan Evans, Cello Performance
Ignacio (Nacho) Tejeda, PhD Mathematics
Ethan Kim, Psychology
Mina Wang, Cello Performance
Amanda Song, Business
Breanna Humphrey, Microbiology
Katherine Kang, Human Centered Design & Engineering
Ava Reese, Anthropology
Andrew Vu, Biology/Chemistry
Noah Croskey, Engineering

Bashir Abdel-Fattah, PhD Mathematics

Amelia Matsumoto, Engineering (Principal)
Rina Ishii, Environmental Science
Eddie Nikishina, BM Music Performance
Alejandra Heringer, English
Gabriella Kelley, Philosophy: Ethics/Pre-Law
Beau Wood, MM Jazz Studies

Sunny Xia

Recognized for her innate musicality, compelling presence, and technical precision, Chinese-born conductor Sunny Xuecong Xia’s ability to forge an immediate and captivating connection with orchestras and audiences alike has led to engagements around the country. Recently appointed Douglas F. King Assistant Conductor of the Seattle Symphony, Xia begins her new position in September 2022. As Assistant Conductor, she will contribute to Seattle Symphony’s Education and Community Engagement programs, conduct the Family Concerts, as well as serve as cover conductor for subscription concerts throughout her appointment.

In the 2021/2022 season, Xia was selected as Conducting Fellow at the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, where she made her festival debut leading the world premiere of Marc Migó Cortés' Dumka in July 2022. She led a production of La bohème with the Chandler Opera Company to great success and appeared with double bassist Xavier Foley and violinist Eunice Kim in Foley’s poignant work For Justice and Peace at Mesa Arts Center. Additional engagements included Assistant Conductor of the Phoenix Youth Symphony Orchestra and Cover Conductor for Arizona Musicfest. In the 2020/2021 season, she appeared as guest conductor with the MusicaNova Orchestra and was invited to serve as Assistant Conductor at the National Music Festival and Pierre Monteux Music Festival.

A dynamic advocate for contemporary music, Xia will be leading the Seattle Symphony in works by composers Katy Abbott, Tan Dun, Quinn Mason, Angelique Poteat, Gabriella Smith, and Chen Yi in the 2022/2023 season. She has previously led the Cleveland Institute of Music New Music Ensemble in music series such as the Cleveland NEOSonicFest and CIM New Music Series. She has several world premieres under her credit, including Rodney Rogers’ Concerto for Violin and String Orchestra with violinist Christiano Rodrigues and the MusicaNova Orchestra. She served as a Conducting Fellow in the 2020 Cortona Sessions for New Music Conductor and Advocate Virtual Summit.

Equally at home and in the opera pit, prior to leading La bohème with the Chandler Opera Company, Xia has served as assistant conductor for productions of Hänsel und Gretel, Die Zauberflöte, The Juniper Tree, Le Rossignol and L’Enfant et les Sortilèges. Dedicated to bringing music to the community, while in Cleveland, Xia organized and led concerts in retirement communities and elementary schools, including an interactive presentation of Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf in East Cleveland for an audience of 4th and 5th graders.

Highlights of the 2019-20 season included being selected by Marin Alsop as a Conducting Fellow in the Peabody Conducting Workshop, appointment as Apprentice Conductor at the North American New Opera Workshop (NANOWorks) and serving as Cover Conductor for the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra. Additionally, she led the Cleveland Institute of Music Orchestra in the 2019 Benefit Concert “A Legacy in Bloom: Celebrating Clara T. Rankin” with violinist Caroline Goulding.

Xia holds a dual master’s degree in Orchestral Conducting and Violin Performance from the Cleveland Institute of Music where she studied under the tutelage of Carl Topilow and Jan Mark Sloman. She is currently a doctoral candidate at Arizona State University where she studied under the guidance of Dr. Jeffery Meyer and Tito Muñoz. She has had the privilege to be further mentored by a number of prominent conductors, including Marin Alsop, JoAnn Falleta, Giancarlo Guerrero, Ludovic Morlot, Larry Rachleff, and Carl St.Clair. For two summers, she attended the Monteux School and Music Festival as a Kurt & Torj Wray Conducting Scholar. An accomplished violinist, prior to becoming a conductor, Xia performed as a soloist with orchestras in China and Australia, including the symphony orchestras of Harbin, Zheijiang, Hunan and Guangxi, and the Concertante Ensemble. While attending Cleveland Institute of music, she served as concertmaster of the CIM Orchestra.

​Originally from Guangzhou, China, Xia relocated to Sydney, Australia at the age of 14 on a sponsorship from the Australian String Academy that allowed her to further her violin studies with Peter Shi-xiang Zhang and Charmian Gadd. A talented basketball athlete, she competed in the semi-professional New South Wales Metro Junior League before focusing primarily on her musical pursuits. When not performing or enjoying a pick-up game, she can be found reading, kayaking, or learning languages. She speaks Cantonese, English, Mandarin and Teochew, and is improving her German, French and Italian.

Paul Rafanelli, Bassoon

A member of the Seattle Symphony and Seattle Opera Orchestra since 1992, bassoonist Paul Rafanelli has performed frequently on the orchestra’s Chamber Music Series; he has also performed with the Seattle Chamber Music Society, Walla Walla Chamber Music Festival and Seattle Chamber Players. Before joining the Seattle Symphony in 1992, Mr. Rafanelli was a member of the Charleston (SC) Symphony Orchestra, and played at the Festival dei Due Mondi in Italy and the Spoleto Festival USA.

For over a decade Mr. Rafanelli has served on the Board of Directors of the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestras (he is also an Alumnus from the 1980’s) and is a strong proponent of Arts in education. For 16 years he served on the faculty of the University of Puget Sound, where he was the Affiliate Artist in bassoon. In October of 2021 he joined the faculty of the University of Washington as Artist in Residence.

Mr. Rafanelli was born in Seattle in 1963 and received his training at the University of Washington, Manhattan School of Music and The Juilliard School. He is fluent in Italian and also speaks some German. His bassoon was custom made by the Wilhelm Heckel Co. in Wiesbaden, Germany, in 1986.

David Rahbee

David Alexander Rahbee is currently Senior Artist in Residence at the University of Washington School of Music in Seattle, where he is Director of Orchestral Activities and Chair of Orchestral Conducting. He is Music Director and Conductor of the University of Washington Symphony Orchestra and founder of the UW Campus Philharmonia Orchestras. He is a recipient of the American-Austrian Foundation's 2003 Herbert von Karajan Fellowship for Young Conductors, the 2005 International Richard-Wagner-Verband Stipend, a fellowship the Acanthes Centre in Paris (2007), and is first prize winner in conducting from The American Prize national non-profit competitions in the performing arts for 2020. His work at UW has earned national recognition. In 2021 he was praised by The American Prize as “Consistently one of the most courageous and comprehensive [orchestral] programmers working in higher education in the U.S. today…”

Dr. Rahbee has appeared in concert with orchestras such as the Seattle Symphony, RTE National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg, Kammerphilharmonie Berlin-Brandenburg, Guernsey Symphony Orchestra, Chattanooga Symphony, National Chamber Orchestra of Armenia, Orchestre de la Francophonie, Orchesterakademie der Bochumer Symphoniker, the Dresden Hochschule orchestra, Grand Harmonie, the Boston New Music Initiative, Seattle Modern Orchestra, Orquesta Sinfónica de Loja (Ecuador), Savaria Symphony Orchestra (Hungary), Cool Opera of Norway (members of the Stavanger Symphony), Schönbrunner Schloss Orchester (Vienna), the Whatcom Symphony Orchestra, the Kennett Symphony, and the Divertimento Ensemble of Milan. His collaborations with the Seattle Symphony include assistant conductor for the performance and recording of Ives’ Fourth Symphony, and as guest conductor for their Native Lands project and the North American premiere of Páll Ragnar Pallson's Quake with faculty cellist Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir. He has collaborated with several prominent soloists such as Sarah Chang, Jon Kimura Parker, Yekwon Sunwoo, Glenn Dicterow and Jonathan Biss. He has been a guest rehearsal conductor for numerous young orchestras, such as the New England Conservatory Symphony Orchestra, The Symphony Orchestra of the Hall-Musco Conservatory of Music at Chapman University, and the Vienna University of Technology orchestra. He has served on faculty of the Pierre Monteux School as Conducting Associate, has been resident conductor of the Atlantic Music Festival and guest conductor at the Hawaii Performing Arts Festival.

Dr. Rahbee was an assistant at the Vienna State opera from 2002-2010. As part of his fellowship and residency at the 2003 Salzburg Festival, Dr. Rahbee was assistant conductor of the International Attergau Institute Orchestra, where he worked with members of the Vienna Philharmonic. He has been selected to actively participate in masterclasses with prominent conductors such as Kurt Masur, Sir Colin Davis, Jorma Panula, Zdeněk Mácal, Peter Eötvös, Zoltán Peskó and Helmut Rilling, and counts Nikolaus Harnoncourt to be among his most influential mentors. From 1997-2001, David Rahbee was founder and conductor of the Fidelio Chamber Orchestra in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Dr. Rahbeeʼs principal conducting teachers were Charles Bruck and Michael Jinbo at the Pierre Monteux School. He holds a Bachelor of Music degree in violin and composition from Indiana University, a Master of Music degree from the New England Conservatory in orchestral conducting, and a Doctorate of Musical Arts from the University of Montreal in orchestral conducting.  He has also participated in post-graduate conducting classes at the Universität für Musik und Darstellende Kunst, Vienna. His brass arrangements are published by Warwick Music, and his articles on the music of Mahler have appeared in journals of the International Gustav Mahler Gesellschaft, among others.

In addition to being awarded first prize in conducting from The American Prize for 2020, he was awarded 2nd place in 2019. He has also placed among winners for five consecutive years for The American Prize Vytautas Marijosius Memorial Award for Orchestral Programming, recognizing his programming with the UW Symphony and its affiliated ensembles for every season since he joined the faculty. The UWSO has also been a finalist in the category of orchestral performance in 2018, 2019 and 2020.

Dr. Rahbee is co-editor of Daniels’ Orchestral Music (6thedition) and Daniels’ Orchestral Music Online (DOMO), the gold standard among conductors, orchestral administrators, orchestra librarians as well as other music professionals and students researching for orchestral programming.

Graduate student Ryan Farris

Ryan D. Farris is an up-and-coming conductor and performer in the Pacific Northwest community. He is currently pursuing his doctorate in Orchestral Conducting at the University of Washington where he is the conductor of the Campus Philharmonia Orchestras and assistant conductor of the University of Washington Symphony Orchestra. Ryan has served as cover conductor for professional orchestras across the country, including the Auburn Symphony in Washington and the Boulder Philharmonic in Colorado. He has also served as an assistant conductor for the Greater Boulder Youth Orchestras and as a sectional conductor for Harmonia Seattle. Ryan was a proud student of the late maestro Michael Jinbo at the Pierre Monteux School and Music Festival in Maine for five summers. He has also studied with many notable conductors including Ludovic Morlot, David Rahbee, Gary Lewis, Nicholas Carthy, Donald Schleicher, Kensho Watanabe, Kirk Trevor, and Tiffany Lu.

Ryan has served as principal cellist with the Boulder Opera Company, Seattle Philharmonic Strings, and the University of Washington Symphony. He has appeared as a featured soloist with the South Pudget Sound College Orchestra, and regularly performs in chamber music groups across the region. Before moving to Seattle, he performed regularly with some of Colorado’s best orchestras, including the Boulder Philharmonic, Fort Collins Symphony, and Colorado MahlerFest. Ryan also performs on viola da gamba with the UW Baroque Ensemble and traditional Irish fiddle and pennywhistle with the acclaimed Seattle-based Celtic group Cavort.