NEWBURGH - Woomyung Choe and the Greater Newburgh Symphony Orchestra are delighted to kick off their 2013-14, and nineteenth, season with a compelling mix of music that will make you feel completely at home. The varied program on Saturday, September 7, 7:30 p.m. at Aquinas Hall, Mount Saint Mary College, Newburgh, is a parade of spirited songs, star-crossed lovers, a delightful miniature and Spanish flair.
The concert begins with Academic Festival Overture, Opus 80 by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897). It was composed during the summer of 1880 as a musical "thank you" to the University of Breslau, which had awarded him an honorary doctorate the previous year. Brahms himself referred to the overture as "a very jolly potpourri of students’ songs á la Suppé," Franz von Suppé being an Austrian composer of light operettas. Some regarded this comic impulse as a grave lapse from dignity, but the work sparkles with some of the finest virtues of Brahms’s orchestral technique. He manages to evoke ravishing euphoria without sacrificing his commitment to classical balance.
Irresistible and heart-wrenching, Romeo and Juliet Overture-Fantasy by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) follows. Shakespeare’s tragedy and Tchaikovsky’s tortured personal life collided to produce the first true expression of his genius as a composer, a tautly constructed masterpiece that boils Shakespeare’s narrative down to its essentials - music that is, by turns, thunderingly dramatic and achingly beautiful. The passionate immediacy of the Overture-Fantasy was stimulated in part by a personal experience of a love affair gone bad. Recent research by Alexander Poznansky proposes that the amour was Eduard Zak, fifteen years old (about the same age as the title characters) at the time Romeo and Juliet was composed.
Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) was a young man whose music scandalized the audiences he delighted in alienating. Such a background makes the creation of his Symphony No. 1, Opus 25 "Classical" all the more remarkable. In the summer of 1917, with the Russian Revolution beginning to explode around him, Prokofiev set to work on an experiment. He wanted to write a symphony without being seated at the piano and, in fact, this symphony was composed mostly during long walks in the woods outside St. Petersburg. But what makes this symphony so remarkable–and so charming–is that this young firebrand chose as his model the classical symphony of the eighteenth century: The symphony, only twelve minutes long, does indeed have a classical order and style, enlivened at some points by Prokofiev’s characteristically pungent harmonies. The turmoil of Prokofiev’s country is nowhere depicted in these works. He had moved on and would not return to Russia for 20 years.
The evening concludes with a showpiece for the very accomplished Greater Newburgh Symphony Orchestra musicians. Capriccio Espagnol, Opus 34 (Spanish Caprice) began when Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908) sketched out a Spanish-flavored fantasy for solo violin before completely revising it in 1887 for the entire orchestra. The piece is often lauded for its orchestration, which features a large percussion section and many special techniques and articulations. Despite the critical praise, Rimsky-Korsakov was annoyed that the other aspects, like the "brilliant composition," of the piece were being ignored. While the Capriccio has long been an audience favorite, it is also a very satisfying piece to play. Every section in the orchestra has a chance to shine, and there are many virtuoso solo passages.
The Shacklett Preview at 6:30 p.m. is a pre-concert introduction to the evening’s music by Gordon Shacklett. Ticket prices are $25 for reserved seating, $20 for general admission and $15 for seniors. Students are admitted free of charge. Tickets may be purchased at the door or reserved.
To learn more information about this event, please call (845) 913-7157 or visit www.newburghsymphony.org.