Ahead of her solo turn June 13-15 with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Riccardo Muti, Jennifer Gunn discussed the program, which showcases her in Ken Benshoof’s Concerto in Three Movements and Antonio Vivaldi’s Piccolo Concerto in C Major, RV 444.
You perform 18th- and 21st-century concertos on this program. How do you make the switch stylistically or technically?
The two styles are so different that it is easy to switch gears between them — almost natural in a way. Vivaldi concertos for most, if not all, instruments can be quite athletic in nature. What I mean by this is that there are a lot of notes! The Benshoof is a modern concerto, only written a few years ago, and although it also has its fair share of notes, it is very lyrical in nature. Both pieces are a joy to play and showcase different personalities of the piccolo.
When did you first hear the music of composer Ken Benshoof?
I was introduced to Ken Benshoof’s music through his piccolo sonata called Spindrift, and I fell in love with the piece. Fast forward many years: I was asked by the National Flute Association to premiere his Concerto in Three Movements.
Describe the experience of working with the composer and bringing the piece to life.
It was just wonderful working through all the corners of the piece and smoothing things out — I felt like he wrote it just for me. It was something I could sing through. It’s very audience-friendly, it’s fun for me to play, and I’m really excited to bring his music to the Chicago Symphony. To play it with Maestro Muti is a dream come true.
What should the audience listen for in either of these concertos?
I think when most people hear the word “piccolo,” they immediately start thinking of fireworks, the Fourth of July, and “The Stars and Stripes Forever” by Sousa. Well, I hope after hearing these two concertos, they will come away thinking that this little instrument has a much bigger personality than that! The two concertos that I will play are quite different: They were written hundreds of years apart. While both are delicately orchestrated, the Vivaldi is a real solo effort for the piccolo player, and the Benshoof will be a team effort with the piccolo player out in front, leading the way. I think both concertos will demonstrate the beautiful sound and technical ability of the instrument.
Hometown: Selinsgrove, Pa.
Year joined the CSO: 2005
Education: Duquesne University
@Todd Rosenberg Photography