This week, Ward Stare returns to the RPO, and the RPO returns to Beethoven and Haydn — with a world premiere in between. The premiere is a notable one, bringing together a Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, Aaron Jay Kernis, and a soloist who's been called "the Heifetz of the flute" by Gramophone, Maria Piccinini. They join forces for a new concerto which, given Kernis's prominence and his talent for writing lyrical, appealing music, should have an afterlife. The bread in this nourishing symphonic sandwich consists of Beethoven's Fourth, one of his least-heard but most satisfying symphonies, and Haydn's Symphony No. 67, which — well, has this work ever been played in Rochester at all? It's a beaut, full of confidence, composerly craft, and joie de vivre. Far from being a mere concert opener, it's a great discovery and a perfect companion to the Beethoven Fourth. If Ward Stare enjoys exploring obscure Haydn (he also recently conducted the RPO in the wacky Symphony No. 60, "Il distratto"), he has my vote to do much more of it in future seasons.
The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra will perform Thursday, February 4, at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, February 6, at 8 p.m., at Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre, 60 Gibbs Street. 454-2100; rpo.org.