Wednesday, March 16, 2016

March Mix

Our March Masterworks repertoire provides a wide mix of styles, including works by two vastly different American composers. I'm really enjoying getting to know John Adams' The Chairman Dances: Foxtrot for Orchestra from his 1985 opera Nixon in China. There's a fine complement of percussion that sets up a groove that you can't ignore. The machine like rhythms and the masterful use of orchestral colors will still be pleasantly on your mind in the days following the concert.

Samuel Barber's Violin Concerto is, hands down, the most beloved American violin concerto, despite a rather rocky beginning. It wasn't enough that Barber was forced to flee Switzerland because of the oncoming Nazi menace, delaying composition of the third movement, AND his father was ill. No, it seems the dedicatee's mentor found the work too “easy” and demanded revisions. After a big harangue, the work was finally premiered by someone else, exactly 75 years ago. The first and second movements are highly lyrical with sweeping orchestrations. The moto perpetuo finale is a rollicking romp; a typically Barber-ian mix of intricate virtuosity and cockamamie tunes that will keep you on the edge of your seat-- and on the verge of laughter. The tympani states the opening theme, for Pete's sake! Guest maestro Jacomo Rafael Bairos and violin soloist Elena Urioste have an endearing chemistry, and Elena is from Hartford, so naturally I'm a fan…

Closing the concert will be Modest Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition. The piece is filtered through the orchestrating lens of Ravel, who took an already legendary piano work in 1922 and turned it into one of the most memorable orchestra showpieces ever. It is somehow fitting that we are performing Pictures here just a few days after the tragic death of British rock keyboardist Keith Emerson. His band, Emerson, Lake and Palmer (ELP) performed a freely adapted version --including lyrics!-- of the work in the early 70s. His artistry brought Mussorgsky's tunes (and those of many others) to a whole new audience. 

I hope you are in our audience, this coming Thursday and/or Friday at 7:30 at the Tennessee Theatre.

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