A Symphonic Adventure: BPO Cellist Roman Mekinulov’s talks about his Musical Quest with Don Quixote

This weekend, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra (BPO) presents Don Quixote, a captivating musical journey into the world of dreams, fantasies, adventure, and romance. The BPO’s principal cellist, Roman Mekinulov, will take on the role of the valiant knight-errant. With a career marked by performances on international stages, collaborations with renowned musicians, and extensive recording work, Mekinulov, who is in his twenty-third season with the BPO, has established himself as a versatile and sought-after cellist in the classical music realm.

“I simply love music,” shared Mekinulov. “As a principal cellist, the most rewarding part is making music with our wonderful conductor, JoAnn Falletta, and also guest conductors, and playing all kinds of different music.”

Mekinulov has previously performed the piece and has meticulously immersed himself in everything related to Quixote, from stories, books, and films to even cartoons. His profound admiration for the story and its characters fills him with excitement as he eagerly anticipates revisiting it once more. “The last time I played [Quixote] at the BPO was fifteen years ago. It seems different every time,” adding “Every time you get a one year older, you feel different about different things.”

Don Quixote, written by Miguel de Cervantes, was first published in two parts, in 1605 and 1615, respectively, in Spain. The novel quickly became a literary masterpiece, widely regarded as one of the greatest works of fiction ever written, inspiring countless adaptations, including Richard Strauss’ symphonic poem, which will be performed this upcoming weekend.

Through Strauss’ masterful composition, the listener is taken on the musical journey of the book. Strauss employs a wide array of musical techniques, creating a multifaceted and emotionally resonant musical narrative. From the stirring melodies representing Don Quixote’s chivalrous spirit, to the playful and comedic motifs associated with his misadventures, Don Quixote is a testament to Strauss’ genius as a composer and storyteller.

Honoré Daumier (Don Quixote), The Yorck Project (2002), distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH. ISBN: 3936122202.

Don Quixote is the perfect example of program music,” shared Mekinulov. 

Program music is music written on some kind of a story… Don Quixote is a theme and twelve variations, and each variation has a story to it. So, it’s very vivid…You know, there’s some incredible music written, but program music is very different. [A symphony] forces you to sort of imagine ‘what does it make you feel?’ and ‘how does it make you feel’ [but] this particular piece? We’ll actually tell you what it’s about.

The themes and variations of Strauss’ work portray the adventures and trials faced by Quixote. The theme introduces Don Quixote, the knight of the sorrowful countenance, with the cello representing his character. Sancho Panza, Don Quixote’s loyal squire, played by Caroline Gilbert, is then introduced. The variations depict different escapades, including the famous encounter with the windmills, dialogues between knight and squire, and encounters with famous characters like Dulcinea. 

The music captures Don Quixote’s fantastical experiences, like the ride through the air, and the unhappy voyage in an enchanted boat, his confrontations and battles with magicians, and the duel with the Knight of the White Moon. Through these variations, Strauss paints a vivid musical portrait of the beloved literary character’s adventures and struggles.

Wilhelm Marstrand, Don Quixote og Sancho Panza ved en skillevej, uden datering (efter 1847), Nivaagaards Malerisamling

The story that is portrayed in this particular piece is very much like a roller coaster ride. I mean, it goes up and down, [particularly when Don Quixote’s] completely delusional, fighting different things. [In the piece,] there are a lot of flashy, loud moments, and a lot of painful moments, and a lot of pensive moments, and it all ends with self-reflection and death. I mean it’s truly up and down, up and down.. it’s like a story.

In addition to this piece, audiences will be swept away by the intoxicating romance of Spain with Maurice Ravel’s lush “Rapsodie espagnole,” adding an extra layer of magic to the evening’s performance.

There is a performance on Friday, March 1, at 10:30 AM, and another on Saturday, March 2, at 7:30 PM.  Tickets are available here.  

The post A Symphonic Adventure: BPO Cellist Roman Mekinulov’s talks about his Musical Quest with Don Quixote appeared first on Buffalo Rising.

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