CAPE ANN SYMPHONY
THE 65th ANNIVERSARY SEASON
Yoichi Udagawa, Music Director
CAPE ANN SYMPHONY OPENS 65th SEASON WITH
BIG NIGHT, BIG MUSIC
Features Bernstein, Debussy & Respighi
Cape Ann Symphony kicks off the orchestra’s 65th Anniversary Concert Season on Saturday, September 24 at 8 pm with Big Night, Big Music featuring big thrilling symphonic pieces that showcase the talents of the CAS musicians at the CAS performance venue at Manchester-Essex High School Auditorium on 36 Lincoln Street in Manchester-by-the-Sea, MA. Manchester-Essex High School Auditorium is handicapped accessible. Ticket prices are $40 for adults, $35 for senior citizens, $5 for Youth age 18 and under. For tickets and information, call 978-281-0543 or visitwww.capeannsymphony.org.
Cape Ann Symphony Conductor and Music Director Yoichi Udagawa describes the upcoming concert program, “We are starting off our 65th Anniversary Season with a concert we’re calling Big Night, BIG Music. The three pieces on the program are BIG!!!! Massachusetts born and raised Leonard Bernstein’s music from West Side Story, the French composer Claude Debussy’s description of the sea – La Mer, and the Italian composer Ottorino Respighi’s musical description of the Pines around the city of Rome are three incredible, powerful, emotional, gorgeous, knock your sox off masterpieces. We’re going to give brief introductions to the pieces during the concert to show our audiences some of the reasons why these pieces continue to move and excite people all over the world. It’s going to be a BIG concert, and we can’t wait!”
Leonard Bernstein was a Massachusetts boy. Born in 1918 in Lawrence, he spent summers in Sharon, and attended Boston Latin before completing his BA at Harvard University. Though he later moved to Philadelphia (to attend the Curtis Institute) and then to New York, he remained connected to the area – studying conducting at Tanglewood and frequently leading the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He holds the distinction of being the first American Music Director of a major orchestra – the NY Philharmonic. Musically, he was a jack of all trades: a brilliant pianist, much sought-after conductor, a critic and lecturer on the arts, and of course, a prolific composer of music in many styles. He was a deep admirer of Copeland and other classical composers of the day, and strove to be recognized as one of them. However, one of the works he is best known for is not one of his symphonies or his chamber pieces, but rather West Side Story.
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Once West Side Story opened in 1957 it not only became an instant classic (732 performances on Broadway, a highly successful tour, and an award-winning film version) but this classically orchestrated “opera” with leitmotifs and mambos defined musical theater as a uniquely American genre where popular and classical music could combine to tell all sorts of stories and explore thorny personal and societal problems. Jerome Robbins’ choreography was as groundbreaking as Bernstein’s music or Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics. It was very athletically demanding, with movement that crossed ballet, modern dance, and body-mime, highly choreographed fight scenes, and–of course–lots of Latin dancing.
With a much richer orchestration than a Broadway pit can allow for, Symphonic Dances from West Side Story includes some of these spectacular dance moments and follows the dramatic arc of the musical. Though it is through-composed, each melody melting into the next, it can be divided into nine sections. The “Prologue” explodes onto the scene, tension building in the first measure to a loud snap, instantly telling listeners that this Romeo and Juliet isn’t set in “fair Verona,” but in the alleys of Harlem. You hear the Jets’ leader Riff’s refrain “you’re never alone, when company’s expected, you’re well protected,” first in the alto sax and then joined by the other instruments as they saunter through the streets. Eventually, they are interrupted by the rival gang, the Sharks, in the brass, and a chase ensues. “Somewhere,” a love song that promises “a time and place” free from violence for our star-crossed lovers is scored at first in the strings and horn like the pop-songs of the 40’s and 50’s before taking on all the glitz and glitter of Broadway. “Scherzo” skips along idyllically with the claves hinting at the coming dance-off between the gangs at the gym (“Mambo”). There, Tony and Maria see each other from across the crowded floor and then fall in love while dancing the “Cha-cha.” The melodic theme of “Cha-cha” later becomes Tony’s iconic song “Maria” in the “Meeting scene,” which is rudely interrupted by the “Cool Fugue.” This is one of the most dramatically tense scenes of the musical and earned Robbins a Tony for his choreography: knowing the stakes, Riff tries to control the Jets’ simmering blood-lust for the Sharks. Perhaps inevitably, emotions boil over and the feud turns deadly in “Rumble.” After the dust settles, the “Somewhere” theme returns in “Finale,” a tragic reminder of what might have been.
According to Udagawa, “The Symphonic Dances from West Side Story is a real tour de force for the orchestra. Lots of jazzy and popular rhythms – audiences love it. Plus the musicians bring to life on some of the dramatic action in the dances. Listen for the whistle-signal and snapping of the Jets, and Officer Krumkie’s completely ineffectual police-whistle.”
Debussy is one of the great French composers of the turn of the century, along with Bizet, Ravel, Duparc, Satie, and others. It was a time of great change in aesthetics and artistic thought: the lush Romantic period was slipping away and the horrors of World War I had yet to give birth to the harsher aspects of Modernism – the straight lines and disjointed faces of visual art and the 12-tone rows of music.
Udagawa is eager to play the Debussy piece, “La Mer is one of my favorite works. Revolutionary in that Debussy was really one of the first “modern” composers, although to our ears today, La Mer sounds very melodic and not at all “modern”. It was modern in the sense that Debussy rebelled against centuries of practice when he “threw out” musical form and started to create through composed pieces with no previous model. Although I don’t necessarily agree with this direction, the fact is that in the history of Western Music, Debussy is a true revolutionary. At the concert I will speak about the titles to the movements and how they are reflected in the music.”
Written between 1903 and 1905, La Mer, is as the title implies an exploration of “the sea” as a subject material, through an aural rather than a visual sketch. The piece is divided into three sections: “De l’aube à midi sur la mer” (“From dawn to midday on the sea”); “Jeux de vagues” (“Play of the waves”); and “Dialogue du vent et de la mer” (“Dialogue of the wind and the sea”). Each instrument in the orchestra has its own characteristic timbre and Debussy was a master at painting with these “tone colors” through careful orchestration and his use of dynamic swells and non-traditional harmonies. The orchestration shifts constantly throughout La Mer, each combination of timbre, harmonic color, and rhythmic texture creating a new atmosphere suitable to the subject matter of each of the three sections.
Ottorino Respighi first came to prominence as a composer in 1917 with Fontane di Roma (Fountains of Rome). The sequel to Fountains, Pini di Roma (Pines of Rome) was published in 1924, and in 1928 Respighi capped off his “Roman Trilogy” with Feste Romane (Roman Festivals). Before that, he was better known as a virtuoso violinist and violist, touring with many European companies and learning orchestration from Rimsky-Korsakov while playing in the Imperial Orchestra in St. Petersburg. In 1913 he became a professor at the St. Cecilia Conservatory in Rome, and it was there that he settled down to composition as his primary musical pursuit.
“The Pines of Rome is one of the most sparkling, powerful, BIG pieces ever written,” points out Udagawa, the music describes the Pines around the city of Rome. The third movement features the playing of a recording of nightingales – something Respighi indicated in his score. He was using a record player, new cutting edge technology in 1928!”
Respighi depicts specific images in his Roman works. They function not to be experienced as a whole but rather temporally, with events, sights, and sounds happening in a plot-like order. In modern music this style is akin to film music, and in fact Hollywood composers continue to be greatly influenced by Respighi in his method of orchestration and the way he uses the virtuosity of orchestral players to tell a story. In Respighi’s time, this type of compositional method was known as program music (with individual pieces often called symphonic poems) because the program notes gave the audience the key to understanding the scenes. At the September 24 CAS concert conductor Udagawa will provide details about each of Respighi’s symphonic poems.
Founded in Gloucester in 1951, the Cape Ann Symphony is a fully professional orchestra of over 70 players from throughout the New England area. They perform a subscription season of four concerts per year plus several Pops and youth concerts. The Cape Ann Symphony concerts are held at the Manchester-Essex High School auditorium on 36 Lincoln Street in Manchester-by-the-Sea, MA.
The Cape Ann Symphony’s season opening concert, Big Night, Big Music is Saturday, September 24, 2016 at 8:00 pm at the Manchester-Essex High School Auditorium on 36 Lincoln Street in Manchester-by-the-Sea, MA. Manchester-Essex High School Auditorium is handicapped accessible. Ticket prices are $40 for adults, $35 for senior citizens, $5 for Youth (18 years old and under). For information, call 978-281-0543 or visit www.capeannsymphony.org