PEPSI POPS:  A Blast in the Park

7:29 PM, Friday, May 10, 2019
The Reservoir - Old Trace Park

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This annual family treat feasts on the lovely, exciting sights and sounds of the MSO at dusk on the Rez, followed by moonlight and fireworks.  A kid’s playground, food trucks, and advance bands amplify the fun for all.  A picnic never sounded so good! 

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CONCERT GENEROUSLY SPONSORED BY:

with additional support from:

   

           

     

   

    

 

        

            

RHYTHMIC ROMP

7:30 PM, Friday, April 26, 2019
Tougaloo College - Woodworth Chapel

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Schubert’s immortal, lyrical Death and the Maiden is countered by William Walton’s jaunty Façade-An Entertainment, a saucy and humorous theater piece with Jackson’s beloved mezzo-soprano at its center, expressively narrating the poetry of Edith Sitwell atop the lively, colorful movements from six core MSO musicians. 

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Concert generously sponsored by

LESLY GAYNOR MURRAY 

AND 

STEPHEN C. EDDS 

Franz Schubert, String Quartet No. 14, in D minor, D. 810 "Death and the Maiden" 

William Walton, Façade - An Entertainment  

      Lester Senter Wilson, narrator  

Selby and Richard McRae Foundation ASTRAL EDGE

7:29 PM, Saturday, April 13, 2019
Thalia Mara Hall

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A warp-drive thrill ride straddles classical music and electronica with Mason Bates’ Mothership, Debussy’s Nocturnes, and Gustav Holst’s The Planets in a starry soundscape of cool.  Get ready to go on to the next dimension! 

Featuring the Women of The Mississippi Chorus & the Mississippi College Singers. 

Cash bar in the lobby prior to the concert and at intermission.

Pre-concert lecture by Dr. Timothy Coker on the Mezzanine, 6:45-7:15p

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Concert sponsored by a generous gift from

J. KEITH ROBBINS III, MD 

Mason Bates, Mothership

Claude Debussy, Nocturnes

Gustav Holst, The Planets

SPRING DELIGHT

7:30 PM, Saturday, March 23, 2019
Millsaps College - Ford Academic Complex

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This eclectic “best of” chamber collection comes full circle with a mix of classical and neoclassical, delight and intrigue, 18th through 20th century greats, plus a world premier by Mississippi composer Ben Williams.  Drink in this program of Stravinsky, Williams, Bach and Schubert – old wine, new bottles, all worth savoring! 

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Igor Stravinsky, Pulcinella 

Ben Williams, [world premiere] 
          Susan Landry, principal bass 

Johann Sebastian Bach, Ricercare from Musical Offering (orch. by Webern) 

Franz Schubert, Symphony No. 5, in B-flat Major, D. 485 

Selby and Richard McRae Foundation STRING SENSATION

7:30 PM, Saturday, February 16, 2019
Thalia Mara Hall

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Violinist Tai Murray warms to Brahms’ dreamy violin concerto and Schumann’s Symphony No. 4 completes an evening of melody and soul – true musical sustenance with some of the finest music the world has created, from composers who were also best friends. 

Cash bar in the lobby prior to the concert and at intermission.

Pre-concert lecture by Dr. Timothy Coker on the Mezzanine, 6:45-7:15p

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Concert generously sponsored by

      

and 

Tai Murray's appearance made possible by

TOM and CONNIE KOSSEN 

Robert Schumann, Symphony No. 4, in D minor, Op. 120

Johannes Brahms, Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77
          Tai Murray, violin 

ROBERT SCHUMANN:  Symphony No. 4 in D minor, Op. 120

Robert Schumann is one of the most intriguing figures of the musical nineteenth century. Astoundingly creative as a child, he started composing at age seven. A biographical note in the Universal Journal of Music in 1850 claimed that Schumann, “as a child, possessed rare taste and talent for portraying feelings and characteristic traits in melody — ay, he could sketch the different dispositions of his intimate friends by certain figures and passages on the piano so exactly and comically that everyone burst into loud laughter at the similitude of the portrait.” Fascinated by literature, he also attempted several novels, influenced by his father -- a bookseller, publisher, and author himself. His father encouraged his music, but died when Robert was sixteen. At the urging of his mother, and following the terms of his inheritance, Robert entered the University of Leipzig to study law, but spent most of his time improvising at the piano and composing art songs. As he wrote to his mother, “My whole life has been a struggle between Poetry and Prose, or call it Music and Law.” Finally, music won out. Deciding to commit to a solo performing career, he began serious piano study with Friedrich Wieck, a well-known pedagogue whose daughter Clara was a child prodigy. By age eleven, Clara was giving important public performances in several European cities. (The story of Robert and Clara and their eventual marriage over the many objections of Friedrich Wieck is one of legend, and one of the great love stories of the century.) While studying with Wieck, Schumann suffered from a crippling hand injury, dashing his hopes for a concert career. But this tragic event forced Schumann to focus on composition, eventually producing the rich body of work we gratefully experience in our concert halls today.

Schumann’s creative habit was to focus for as long as a year on a single genre, then move to another. Henceforth, 1840 was his “year of the song,” during which he produced at least 138 lieder. That year Clara wrote in her diary that she believed “it would be best if he composed for orchestra; his imagination cannot find sufficient scope in the piano… His compositions are all orchestral in feeling. My highest wish is that he compose for orchestra—that is his field! May I succeed in bringing him to it.” Then, 1841 was indeed to become Schumann’s year of the symphony. Later that year Symphony in D minor was premiered as “Symphony No. 2”, but Schumann would revise it ten years later, entirely re-orchestrating and publishing it as his fourth. The dedication is to Joseph Joachim, for whom Brahms composed the other work in tonight’s program. It reads, “When the first sounds of this symphony emerged, Joseph Joachim was a little boy. Since then the symphony and even more the youth have grown, and so I dedicate it to him, even if only silently.”

The other part of Schumann’s story involves a lifelong struggle with mental illness. In 1833, depressed over the death of his sister-in-law, Schumann came close to committing suicide by throwing himself from a fourth-floor window. After his brother died just four weeks later, he wrote in his diary that he was having premonitions of insanity. (His father had suffered from a “nervous disorder” near the end of his life). Schumann came close to suicide several other times in his life after “fits of melancholy,” and in 1852 his speech was hesitant and he was moving slower. In 1854 he was experiencing “very strong and painful aural symptoms.” He began to have visions, first of angels, then devils in the form of hyenas and tigers. After Clara talked him out of his request to be taken to a lunatic asylum, he threw himself into the Rhine River, only to be rescued by fishermen. A few days later he was committed, and died in the asylum two years later.

JOHANNES BRAHMS:  Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77

In 1853, not long after the shy twenty-two-year-old Brahms showed up on his doorstep in Düsseldorf with a bundle of his works, Schumann wrote the following in the new music journal he had launched the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik: “[H]e is come, a young blood by whose cradle graces and heroes kept watch. He is called Johannes Brahms, from Hamburg, where he has worked in obscure tranquillity, trained in the most difficult laws of art by an excellent and enthusiastic teacher and was lately introduced to me by an honored, well-known master. He bore all the outward signs that proclaim to us, ‘This is one of the elect.’” The Schumanns and Brahms were to form a lifelong friendship, one so close that after Robert was committed to the institution, Johannes moved in with Clara to help with the couple’s seven children.

Brahms, like practically all composers after him with any serious artistic ambitions, could not ignore the shadow of Ludwig van Beethoven. “You can't have any idea what it’s like always to hear such a giant marching behind you!” he wrote to a friend. One of Brahms’ closest friends was the violinist Joseph Joachim. In his lifetime, Joachim was considered the greatest interpreter of Beethoven’s D Major Violin Concerto. It is no coincidence Brahms’ violin concerto is in the same key. If he was intimidated by Beethoven’s greatness, he also drew inspiration from him. We can point to several obvious parallels, from the subtle use of timpani during the first entrance of the violin soloist, to the use of the oboe in deeply felt moments. And then, there is the “gypsy” character in both finales. Brahms began the concerto in 1878, while at his favorite resort in the Carinthian Alps. Discovering Lake Wörth in 1877, he wrote to Eduard Hanslick of its inspiring surroundings, where“the air is so full of melodies that one must be careful not to step on one.”

Brahms engaged Joachim’s help in the writing of the violin part, feeling inadequate as a pianist with little experience on the violin. In the first movement, we almost feel as if the violin is part of the orchestra, not a competing solo instrument. Brahms achieves a perfect balance between drama and soulfulness; between the “expansive warmth of the main theme and its counterpart; a yearning, searching melody,” as one writer put it. The second movement is notable for the beauty of the oboe’s opening theme, answered and elaborated upon by the solo violin. The last movement demonstrates Joachim’s impressive technical abilities, especially in the tricky double stops. The concerto received its premiere on New Year’s Day in 1879, with Joachim as soloist.

THE TEXAS TENORS

7:30 PM, Saturday, February 02, 2019
Thalia Mara Hall

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Three lone-star dudes pack Texas-sized charm and a songbook to boot, with classical chops and an Emmy Award-winning special.  An America’s Got Talent finalist, these three take a blend of classical, country, Broadway, pop and gospel to soul-stirring heights.

Cash bar in the lobby prior to the concert and at intermission. 

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Concert generously sponsored by:

Selby and Richard McRae Foundation RUSSIAN FLAIR

7:30 PM, Saturday, January 26, 2019
Thalia Mara Hall

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Rimsky-Korsakov’s Russian Easter Overture and Tchaikovsky’s Mozartiana make way for a resounding finish:  2013 Van Cliburn winner Vadym Kholodenko on Prokofiev’s riveting third piano concerto. 

Cash bar in the lobby prior to the concert and at intermission.

Pre-concert lecture by Dr. Timothy Coker on the Mezzanine, 6:45-7:15p

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Concert generously sponsored by:

Vadym Kholodenko's appearance made possible by:

JEANNETTE G. WALKER 

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Russian Easter Overture, Op. 36

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Suite No. 4 in G Major, Op. 61 “Mozartiana”

Sergei Prokofiev, Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Major, Op. 26 
          Vadym Kholodenko, piano

NIKOLAI RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: Russian Easter Overture

Tonight’s all-Russian concert opens with a concert overture dedicated to two giants of Russian music, Modeste Mussorgsky and Alexander Borodin. “The Great Russian Easter Overture” stands with Scheherazade and Capriccio Espagnol as the last of three orchestral showpieces Rimsky-Korsakov premiered in St. Petersburg in 1888. Although the musical material comes exclusively from Russian Orthodox canticles, Rimsky-Korsakov’s goal was to express in music a sense of “the legendary and heathen aspects of the holiday,” harkening back to pagan rituals. In any case, the opening text in the score, “Let God arise; let his enemies be scattered,” is followed by a quotation from the Gospel of Mark, which tells the story of Mary Magdalene anointing Jesus’ body with spices, returning with others to find his tomb empty and seeing a man clothed in white, who tells them Jesus has risen. The sound of trumpets and full brass indicate the Resurrexit, Jesus’ resurrection. Rimsky-Korsakov, himself a non-believer, hoped to re-create his childhood memories of the Easter service, explaining, “In order to appreciate my overture even to the slightest degree, it is essential that the listener should have at least once in his life attended an Easter Morning Service, and this not in a domestic chapel, but in a cathedral crowded with people from all walks of life and with several priests taking part.”

PYOTR ILYICH TCHAIKOVSKY: Suite No. 4 in C Major, Op. 61 (“Mozartiana”)

We might have called this concert “The St. Petersburg Connection,” for the connection all three composers have to that great city. Tchaikovsky was sent to St. Petersburg at age ten to begin his preparations for the civil service at the Imperial School of Jurisprudence. By age nineteen, he was working at the Ministry of Justice. (After three years he decided to begin music study at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, in its inaugural class.)

 

In 1887, Tchaikovsky joined the celebration of the centennial of Mozart’s Don Giovanni by composing four short movements constituting a “suite”—in essence, an orchestration of works by Mozart for other performance mediums, from the distance of a century. The first movement (Eine kleine Gigue), is based on Mozart’s Gigue, K. 574. A large contingent of strings bounces around in Romanticism’s version of Classical texture—no orchestra would have been this large in Mozart’s day. The second, a lovely Menuet, is Mozart’s Minuet in D, K. 355 for piano. The third (Preghiria, or “Prayer”), a lush orchestration of Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus, is two degrees of separation from Mozart, based on Franz Liszt’s piano transcription of the choral work. Finally, the fourth movement is Mozart’s K. 455 set of variations on a theme by Gluck, from the opera La recontre imprévue, ou Les pélerins de la Mecque (“The Unexpected Encounter, or The Pilgrims to Mecca”). George Balanchine choreographed “Mozartiana” for the New York City Ballet’s Tchaikovsky Festival in 1981.

SERGEI PROKOFIEV: Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Major, Op. 26

In February 1917, Czar Nicholas II was overthrown and Old Russia was no more. Among those celebrating in the streets of St. Petersburg was the 26-year-old Sergei Prokofiev. After the October Revolution that same year, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was formed. It wasn’t long before Prokofiev decided he might want to undertake a concert tour abroad, to wait for things to settle down. His friend, Soviet Minister of Culture Anatoly Lunacharsky, told him, “…if you want to go to America, I will not stand in your way.” Lunacharsky arranged for a foreign passport and documents, based on Prokofiev’s application, for “artistic business and for reasons of my health.” Thinking he would be gone for a short time, Prokofiev left with only a handful of scores and few belongings. (He was not to return until 1936.) Eighteen days on the Trans-Siberian Railway got him to Vladivostok, where he crossed over into Japan. Books on contemporary European music had already appeared in Japanese, and the Japanese were very much aware of Prokofiev, so he presented concerts in Yokohama and in Tokyo at the Imperial Theatre. Then, it was on to San Francisco by ship, where he was detained by the Americans (who had no idea who he was), and kept on Treasure Island for three days under suspicion of being a Bolshevik spy. Low on money, he managed to board a train to New York only after a total stranger lent him $300. In New York, he gave a successful concert in Aeolian Hall. Prokofiev, age twenty-seven, quickly became a sensation. “Of his instant success there can be no doubt. Whether he will last—Ah! New music for new ears. Serge Prokofiev is very startling.” New York Times critic Richard Aldrich wrote, “His fingers are steel, his wrists steel, his biceps and triceps steel, his scapula steel. He is a tonal steel thrust. He has speed, surely, but a narrow gamut of dynamics, all crash or whisperings.” That year unleashed in the young Prokofiev a torrent of creative activity, which included the Classical Symphony, the opera The Love for Three Oranges, his Violin Concerto No. 1, and a few sketches for what was to be his Third Piano Concerto. He finished the concerto in Paris during the summer of 1921. Probably surprising to most in this audience, Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto was premiered not in the Soviet Union, but in Chicago, Illinois—because of a connection Prokofiev had made years earlier back in St. Petersburg. Cyrus McCormick, president of International Harvester, had been there to sell tractors to the young Soviet government. And McCormick liked contemporary music, particularly Prokofiev’s. “Look me up if you’re ever in Chicago. Just send me a telegram.” It was with McCormick’s help that a performance was arranged with Frederick Stock and the Chicago Symphony on Dec. 16, 1921, with Prokofiev at the piano. The Third Concerto (the most popular of his five piano concertos) has long been a staple of international piano competitions, for its tests of fiendish difficulty and expressive opportunities. Despite its apparent “modernism,” today we can hear in it an extension of Romanticism, bringing Liszt-inspired virtuosity into the twentieth century. Prokofiev, a master pianist himself, took that virtuosity to a new level, with treacherous leaps and knuckle-breaking passages, crunchy with dissonance and powerful emotions.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone™ in Concert

2:00 PM, Sunday, January 20, 2019
Thalia Mara Hall

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The Harry Potter™ film series is one of those once-in-a-lifetime cultural phenomena that continues to delight millions of fans around the world. This concert will feature the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra performing every note from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone™ in Concert.  Audiences will be able to relive the magic of the film in high-definition on a 40-foot screen while hearing the orchestra perform John Williams' unforgettable score.

TICKETS AVAILABLE HERE or by calling Ticketmaster at 800.745.3000 or at the Thalia Mara Hall box office: 255 E. Pascagoula, 601.960.1535
(tickets are NOT available at the MSO offices or website)

 

 

HARRY POTTER characters, names and related indicia are © & ™ Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. J.K. ROWLING`S WIZARDING WORLD™ J.K. Rowling and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. Publishing Rights © JKR. (s18)

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone™ in Concert

8:00 PM, Saturday, January 19, 2019
Thalia Mara Hall

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The Harry Potter™ film series is one of those once-in-a-lifetime cultural phenomena that continues to delight millions of fans around the world. This concert will feature the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra performing every note from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone™ in Concert.  Audiences will be able to relive the magic of the film in high-definition on a 40-foot screen while hearing the orchestra perform John Williams' unforgettable score.

TICKETS AVAILABLE HERE or by calling Ticketmaster at 800.745.3000 or at the Thalia Mara Hall box office: 255 E. Pascagoula, 601.960.1535
(tickets are NOT available at the MSO offices or website)

 

 

HARRY POTTER characters, names and related indicia are © & ™ Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. J.K. ROWLING`S WIZARDING WORLD™ J.K. Rowling and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. Publishing Rights © JKR. (s18)

MOZART BY CANDLELIGHT

7:29 PM, Saturday, January 12, 2019
Belhaven University - Center for the Arts

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The enchantment of the master’s music in the glow of hundreds of candles works its annual magic, this time with two chamber works performed by violinist Stephen Redfield.  For the big finish, the composer’s final and most famous symphonic masterpiece, Jupiter, brings the evening to a spectacular close. 

This concert will also be performed in Brookhaven on January 11 and in Vicksburg on January 13.  Click here for details. 

Sponsors

Concert generously sponsored by

MR. & MRS. EMERSON B. ROBINSON, JR. 

and 

  

Overture from Apollo et Hyacinthus, K. 38

     Divertimento in F Major, K. 138

Violin Concerto No. 4 in D Major, K. 218

     Adagio in E Major, K. 261

Symphony No. 41, in C Major, K. 551, “Jupiter” 

Overture from Apollo et Hyacinth, K. 38

Tonight we have a chance to hear the entire span of Mozart’s development as a composer within one concert, beginning with his first opera and ending with his last symphony. What a musical journey it is!It is astounding to realize that Mozart composed his first opera at age eleven. The circumstances are these…... Established in 1617, the grammar school attached to Salzburg’s Benedictine University had a long-standing tradition of performing a Latin play every year. The practice was to insert a musical intermedio between the acts. Father Rufinius Widl, a professor, wrote a five-act tragedy, The Clemency of Croesus, and the young prodigy was commissioned to write the musical work. The original story from Herodotus is about King Croesus’s son’s accidental death in a hunting accident, but Widl adapts it to the Greek myth of Apollo and Hyacinth. The best music of the opera is in its arias and duets, but this overture has its moments, too, all the more remarkable for the youth of its prodigious composer.

Divertimento in F Major, K. 138

And now the fifteen-year-old Mozart, briefly home between two successful tours in Italy with his father, composed three works for strings each with the title “Divertimento.” Calling for double basses rather than cellos, they were probably meant for a small string orchestra rather than string quartet.

Violin Concerto No. 4 in D Major, K. 218

When we think of Mozart the performer, it’s usually Mozart the pianist. But the violin figured prominently in his early education, and no surprise—his father Leopold was a highly respected violin teacher and well-known author of the Treatise on the Fundamental Principles of Violin Playing. A family friend tells of a string trio rehearsal at the Mozart home whenhe was only six years old:

“Little Wolfgang asked to be allowed to play second violin. As he hadn’t had any lessons yet, your Papa reproved him for his silly begging, thinking he would be unable to make anything of it. Wolfgang said, ‘You don’t need to have taken lessons to play second violin.’ When your Papa insisted that he go away at once and not bother us, he began to cry, and went off in a sulk with his little fiddle. I asked that he be allowed to play alongside me. At last your Papa said, ‘Play along with Herr Schachtner then, but so softly you can’t be heard, or you’ll have to go.’ Soon, I noticed to my amazement that I was superfluous. Quietly, I laid my violin aside and watched your Papa, who had tears of wonder and pleasure running down his cheeks. Little Wolfgang played through all six trios. He was so elated by our applause that he said he could play the first violin part. We let him do it for a joke, and almost died of laughter. His fingering was incorrect and improvised, but he never got stuck.”

In 1775, Mozart was nineteen and still living at home in Salzburg. Between April and December, he composed four violin concertos. Leopold always encouraged Wolfgang’s violin playing. Two years after the premiere of this concerto, Leopold wrote to Wolfgang: “You yourself do not know how well you play the violin—if you would only do yourself justice and play with energy and your whole heart and soul, yes, indeed, just as though you were the first violinist in all of Europe.”

The mock-military opening of the first movement, graced with a touch of the gallant, sets off a dialogue between “two worlds--the swaggering and the yielding”, as one writer put it. The second movement shows Mozart’s sheer wealth of invention with affecting moments of lyricism in the violin, balanced by pulsing accompaniment in the winds. The soloist weaves in and out of the texture the entire movement. The finale is full of delightful surprises, sudden turns of direction, and meter changes. The “refrain” of the rondo is in two parts, an opening andante in 2/4 answered by an energetic jig in 6/8. Along the way, various contrasting melodies appear, including a rustic bagpipe-like theme complete with drone. The last movement ends gracefully and quietly.

Adagio in E Major, K. 261

The Adagio for Violin and Orchestra, K. 261, was composed in 1776, after violinist Antonio Brunetti’s complaint that the Adagio of Mozart’s Concerto No. 5 was “too studied.” Apparently, Mozart obliged him with this new slow movement, which stands on its own as a remarkably beautiful alternative.

Symphony No. 41 in C Major, K. 551 “Jupiter

In the summer of 1788, the thirty-two-year-old Mozart composed what turned out to be his last three symphonies. They were not commissioned for any occasion, nor requested by wealthy patrons. This is odd, given the fact that by 1787, Mozart’s financial situation was becoming dire. His debt out of control, he was begging close friends for loans. The scholarly consensus today is that Mozart’s debts came from a gambling problem, not lack of income. He pawned valuable belongings and tried to get advances from publishers. The three 1788 symphonies may have been composed for planned concerts in Vienna or London. In any case, turning out three masterpieces in such a short span of time was remarkable, even for Mozart. They were not published during his lifetime, which ended at age thirty-five. The nickname “Jupiter” was attached in 1821 by Johann Peter Salomon, a London concert manager, who may have heard in the trumpet and drum fanfares the spirit of the gods of ancient Greece and Jupiter, head of the Pantheon. “The finale is a throwback to Baroque contrapuntal style”, recalling J.S. Bach. Consensus has it that this is Mozart’s greatest symphonic achievement. The late conductor Claudio Abbado called it simply “one of his greatest creations” and describes the finale’s “ideas superimposed, bursting out, one after the other, like fireworks. There is a pile-up of musical lines, a proliferation of colors. The ingenuity is almost unimaginable--limitless.” Michael Steinberg describes the closing coda as a moment when, “Mozart unfurls a dazzling glory of polyphony to cap, in one of music’s truly sublime pages, a movement that is one of the most splendid manifestations of that rich gathering-in we call the ‘Classical Style’.”

Selby and Richard McRae Foundation MAGICAL MOMENTS

7:30 PM, Saturday, November 17, 2018
Thalia Mara Hall

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A magical evening combines Mozart’s Magic Flute overture, Strauss’ moving tone poem Death and Transfiguration, and Sibelius’ Symphony No. 2, with its triumphant ending. 

Cash bar in the lobby prior to the concert and at intermission.

Pre-concert lecture by Dr. Timothy Coker on the Mezzanine, 6:45-7:15p

Sponsors

Concert generously sponsored by:

Meyer & Genevieve Falk Endowment Fund
for Culture and Arts of the Community
Foundation of Greater Jackson 

with additional support from:

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Overture to The Magic Flute, K. 620 

Richard Strauss, Death and Transfiguration, Op. 24 

Jean Sibelius, Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 43 

WOLFGANG AMADÉUS MOZART: Overture to The Magic Flute, K. 620 

Along with many figures in our country’s history—George Washington, Duke Ellington, Clark Gable, John Glenn (and several Mississippi governors)— Mozart was a member of the fraternal organization that calls itself the Freemasons. His opera The Magic Flute has been called “a barely veiled Masonic allegory,” with secret codes and Masonic themes of “good vs. evil, enlightenment vs. ignorance and the virtues of knowledge, judgment, wisdom, and truth.” Mozart’s librettist for the opera was Emmanuel Schikaneder, a fellow Mason. Even before the opera begins, the Overture is subtly introducing symbols subliminally, one might say. Ever aware of the significance of the number three for Masons, Mozart opens in the key of E-flat (which has three flats), repeating three loud chords at the outset. The highest notes outline the E-flat triad (again, three): E-flat, G, and B-flat, respectively. When the three chords return (after a fast contrapuntal section), we are in B-flat, and Mozart repeats the notes of the B-flat triad in exactly the same way as the opening. Although this is “just” an overture, Mozart’s brilliance is on full display, spinning a never-boring web of polyphonic interchange between winds, strings, and percussion, crafted essentially from one theme.

RICHARD STRAUSS: Death and Transfiguration, Op. 24 

Program music has a rich history, from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons to Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique. In the nineteenth century, debates arose over the merits of “program” music—evoking specific images or events—versus “absolute” music. Between 1848 and 1858 Franz Liszt composed twelve “symphonic poems,” a genre of his own creation. Each work’s unique form was dictated by its programmatic idea. Liszt and his followers called this “The Music of the Future.” Forty years later Richard Strauss was writing symphonic poems on Liszt’s model, preferring to call them “tone poems.” Strauss believed almost anything could be portrayed in music. He once said, “I want to be able to depict in music a glass of beer so accurately that every listener can tell whether it is a Pilsner or Kulmbacher!” Death and Transfigurationis the musical portrayal of a dying man who is recalling the loves of his life. Strauss wrote:

The idea occurred to me to represent the death of a person who had striven for the highest ideal goals, therefore very possibly an artist, in a tone poem. The sick man lies in bed asleep, breathing heavily and irregularly; agreeable dreams charm a smile onto his features in spite of his suffering; his sleep becomes lighter; he wakens; once again he is racked by terrible pain, his limbs shake with fever – as the attack draws to a close and the pain subsides, he reflects on his past life, his childhood passes before him, his youth with its striving, its passions, and then, while pain resumes, the fruit of his path appears to him, the ideal, the ideal which he has tried to realize, to represent in his art, but which he has been unable to perfect, because it was not for any human being to perfect it. The hour of death approaches, the soul leaves the body, in order to find perfected in the most glorious form in the eternal cosmos that which he could not fulfill here on earth.

It is not hard to hear in this work the connections between, say, an irregular timpani rhythm and a faltering heartbeat; or “resolute” music and “the determination of the invalid to withstand death.” Biographer Norman del Mar went so far as to identify “palpitations” and “the moment of expiry” (the gong) in the work’s closing moments, where “the strings soar ever higher.  There is a brief pause, and at last the Ideology theme is proclaimed in full as the transfigured soul realizes in the afterlife the aims which could never be accomplished during its earthly existence.”It is always a dicey proposition to connect specific works to a composer’s biography, but Strauss seemed determined to reveal his inner life through music. We do know that Strauss had earlier battled off a serious illness.Is he the dying man? All these speculations are made more interesting by the documented fact that Strauss did not attach a program to this work until after its composition, when he asked a friend to write a poem to convey the meaning of the music.

JEAN SIBELIUS: Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 43

During my second year of college, my horn teacher invited me to his house, eager to unveil his expensive new high-end stereo system. What music did he choose to show it off? The Sibelius Second, with Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra. I will never forget the impression those quiet, opening repeated string chords made on me. I was transported. Critics have long remarked on how Sibelius “teases the listener” in this movement, introducing short motifs that gradually combine to form longer ones. “It is as though the Almighty had thrown the pieces of a mosaic down from the floor of heaven and told me to put them together,” Sibelius wrote. This is the opposite of usual symphonic development, where longer themes become fragmented in development sections, returning fully at the end. Listen for the stirring moment about eight minutes in (before the recapitulation) when a full brass choir intones a chorale against string tremolos. The first movement ends as quietly as it began, having gone through a significant musical journey of transformation. The second movement opens with unusual sound combinations: a timpani roll, then low pizzicato strings under a long line in the bassoons. The themes that emerge are dark and pessimistic in character. (The bassoon melody is marked lugubre.) Eventually, quiet tension is exchanged for loud, strident exchanges between strings and winds. The movement seems to end rather abruptly, setting up the brilliant scherzo movement that follows. Its slower middle section (trio) begins with a wistful oboe melody supported by strings, before we return to the exciting Vivacissimo opening. The oboe returns, slowing things down, and near the end of the scherzo, Sibelius moves into a rising line that increases in excitement and emotion, only to spill over into the finale without break, when unison strings and the brass roll out one of Sibelius’ great melodies. The symphony ends triumphantly, with timpani rolls and full brass. 

An admirer of Richard Strauss’s programmatic tone poems, Sibelius, was once asked if the symphony was programmatic. He insisted it was not. When a friend said he heard in the first movement the quiet pastoral life of the Finnish people, overcoming their Russian oppressors in the last two movements, Sibelius became irritated. But, this was a time of rising nationalism, and Sibelius soon became identified with the Finnish independence movement, like it or not. (Finlandia, his most famous work, preceded this by a year.).  A 1927 article in The Musical Quarterly even asserted that the “nationalistic label has acquired something of a leaden weight for the artist to whom it has been affixed.” More than anything, however, it is Sibelius’ admiration for the great German tradition of symphonic writing, with its craft and structural integrity, that comes through here. Sibelius was a genius of the first order, and only in recent years has received his due.

Selby and Richard McRae Foundation FIERY FLIGHT

7:30 PM, Saturday, October 06, 2018
Thalia Mara Hall

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John Adams’ barnstormer Lollapalooza and a West Side Story Leonard Bernstein tribute share a blazing spotlight with MSO’s master cellist Veronica Parrales, featured in Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky’s incomparable Firebird suite. 

Cash bar in the lobby prior to the concert and at intermission.

Pre-concert lecture by Dr. Timothy Coker on the Mezzanine, 6:45-7:15p

Sponsors

Concert generously sponsored by:

John Adams, Lollapalooza

Leonard Bernstein, Symphonic Dances from West Side Story

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Variations on a Rococo Theme, Op. 33
          Veronica Parrales, principal cello

Igor Stravinsky, Suite from The Firebird           

JOHN ADAMS: Lollapalooza 
John Adams is one of the most successful composers in America today. His operas on current events (Nixon in China, The Death of Klinghoffer, Dr. Atomic) have received critical acclaim, and his instrumental works are played all over the world. Adams’ powerfully effective multi-media symphonic/choral work On the Transmigration of Souls (about the Sept. 11 attacks), won the Pulitzer Prize in 2003. Adams is often described as a “minimalist” composer, lumped together with Steve Reich and Philip Glass, but he disavows the label. While his music does make use of repetitive rhythms and patterns not unlike that of Glass, Reich, and others, Adam’s ‘minimalism’ tends to have more forward motion toward an apparent goal, and his patterns always engage the ear. Here is John Adams on Lollapalooza

Lollapalooza is one of those terrific ‘American’ words; we don’t really even care what it means, it just sounds so good—it sounds fun to say it. The dictionary says ‘Lollapalooza’ means ‘something extraordinarily special.’ I didn’t really care (when I wrote my orchestra piece Lollapalooza) what it meant; I was just thrilled by the sound of the word. It’s one of those onomatopoetic words that seems to generate a musical idea. I thought that I would take it and create an orchestral piece around the repeated use of this word. “Lol-la-pa-loo-za”—three short syllables, a long syllable, and then a terminal short one—so that’s really what the piece is, and the piece is designed somewhat in the minimalist manner, with a repeated accompaniment figure appearing first, then another accompaniment figure joining it, and then the statement of the ‘motto’ “Lol-la-pa-loo-za,” which continues on through the piece, and through a series of transformations boogies along, and dances, and then, at the last moment, kind of reaches a terminal ecstasy, where the timpani is pounding, and the brass is repeating as if they’ve gotten locked in some sort of infernal ‘loop’: a Lollapalooza. 

LEONARD BERNSTEIN: Symphonic Dances 
Leonard Bernstein would have turned one hundred on August 25th. Bernstein’s gifts were so multi-faceted and wide-ranging that, in trying to develop all of them, he was criticized for spreading himself too thin. “You know, pianists don’t think I’m a real pianist,” he once said, adding, “conductors don’t think I’m a real conductor, and composers don’t think I’m a real composer.” Critic Donal Henahan called him, simply, “one of the most prodigiously talented and successful musicians in American history.” The general public remembers him not for his three ambitious symphonies, but for his Broadway musicals. The most famous of these, West Side Story, is a relocation of the Romeo and Juliet story to Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen in the 1950s. The show ran for 777 performances in its first run, and was nominated for six Tony Awards in 1957. The 1961 film version won ten Academy Awards. In 1961, Bernstein refashioned nine numbers from the musical into this orchestral suite. Here are the movements, described by Bernstein’s assistant Jack Gottlieb[1]

PROLOGUE: The growing rivalry between two teenage gangs, the Jets and Sharks.
“SOMEWHERE”: In a visionary dance sequence, the two gangs are united in friendship.
SCHERZO: In the same dream, they break through the city walls, and suddenly find themselves in a world of space, air and sun.
MAMBO: Reality again; competitive dance between the gangs.
CHA-CHA: The star-crossed lovers see each other for the first time and dance together.
MEETING SCENE: Music accompanies their first spoken words.
“COOL” FUGUE: An elaborate dance sequence in which the Jets practice controlling their hostility.
RUMBLE: Climactic gang battle during which the two gang leaders are killed.
FINALE: Love music developing into a processional, which recalls, in tragic reality, the vision of “Somewhere.” 

PYOTR ILYICH TCHAIKOVSKY: Variations on a Rococo Theme, Op. 33 
A concerto for cello in all but name, the “Rococo Variations” is an enduring favorite of cellists, who have only a handful of significant works for solo cello and orchestra (concertos by Dvorak, Elgar, Haydn, Schumann, and Saint-Saens among them). Tchaikovsky meant this to be an homage to Mozart, and the misnomer “Rococo” does at least describe—if not Mozart’s music—something delicate, graceful, and charming. It is scored for a “Classical” chamber orchestra. One of Tchaikovsky’s sunniest creations, this music came out of a period of deep depression. Tchaikovsky began it immediately after the spectacular failure of his opera Vakula the Smith at the Marinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, composing it quickly. The version most often heard today is not quite Tchaikovsky’s original version, but one altered by the cellist Wilhelm Fitzenhagen, who had convinced Tchaikovsky to let him alter some of the solo cello writing and the order and number of movements. Tchaikovsky’s publisher was horrified, saying that Fitzenhagen wanted to “cello it up” to give himself more opportunities for solo display. Tchaikovsky gave in, only to deeply regret it later. Over the years most cellists have stayed with the Fitzenhagen version, despite the clear musical superiority of Tchaikovsky’s original, which was finally published in 1956. 

IGOR STRAVINSKY: Suite from The Firebird 
The 27-year-old Igor Stravinsky, protégé of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, arrived in Paris in 1909 with high odds already in place for a brilliant career. The powerful impresario Serge Diaghilev, after having heard the premiere of Stravinsky’s Scherzo Fantastique in St. Petersburg, was so impressed by the young man that he immediately commissioned him to orchestrate several ballet arrangements for his new company in Paris, the Ballets Russes. Already taking Paris by storm, the company included dancers from the Russian Imperial Ballet who are now regarded as legends—Michel Fokine, Anna Pavlova, and Vaslav Nijinsky. Paris at the turn of the century was fascinated by all things Russian, and Diaghilev’s company rode the wave. Ballet was a French creation, but Parisians were seeing the Russians surpass them in innovation and spectacle. Russia and France had moved closer together politically, and Russia was far enough away geographically and culturally to seem incredibly exotic to the French. But the initial successes of the Ballets Russes were criticized for the way Diaghilev stitched together bits and pieces of Russian music in movements by composers such as Arensky, Taneyev, Glazunov, Tcherepnin, Rimsky-Korsakov, and Mussorgsky. One critical called it a “Russian salad.” What was needed was an event that presented Russian music on an equal plane with the spectacular choreography and sets. And that is where Stravinsky’s lucky break came, a break that would lead to a change in the course of music. Diaghilev decided to commission a completely original ballet score, asking Fokine to choreograph several folk tales and bind them together into The Firebird. He approached composer Nikolai Tcherepnin, then Liapunov and finally Anatoli Liadov. When Liadov procrastinated long enough, the frustrated Diaghilev turned to Stravinsky. Ironically, Firebird was seen as an “anomaly” at the time, according to Richard Taruskin. “For this very deliberately, in fact demonstratively ‘Russian’ work had no antecedent in Russian art and was expressly created for a non-Russian audience.” This was Diaghilev’s first commission of a completely original work to be choreographed. As he would often call out to his artistic co-creators, “Astonish me!” The Firebird did, opening on June 25, 1910 at the Opéra de Paris to critical acclaim, and bringing Igor Stravinsky instant international fame at the age of twenty-seven. His fame would be further elevated three years later, when rioting interrupted the premiere of The Rite of Spring at the Théâtredes Champs-Élysées, changing the course of music. 

The Firebird is the mixing of the mythical Firebird story with an unrelated tale, Kashchey the Deathless (also spelled Koschei, or Kastcheï), which became served as the plot of one of Rimsky-Korsakov’s operas. In the Fokine/Stravinsky ballet, Prince Ivan journeys to win the heart of a princess, but is blocked by the evil magician Kashchey. Awakening from a deep sleep in an enchanted garden, he sees the Firebird, a beautiful magical being. He moves toward the bird and grabs her, but she struggles, then offers him one of her feathers and tells him it can protect from any future trouble. He sets the Firebird free. The Prince wanders through the forest and comes upon an old castle gate. He spots twelve beautiful young women led by Princess Tsarevna, who tells him that the castle belongs to the evil Kashchey, an evil magician capable of casting spells on any passersby. Tsarevna and Ivan kiss. Ivan follows her to the castle, ringing the bell on the gate. Kashchey appears in a group of figures and moves toward Ivan, to turn him into stone. But the feather protects him, the Firebird appears, and Ivan follows her instructions to steal a huge egg, which holds Kashchey’s soul. Ivan throws it to the ground, Kashchey dies, and the spell is broken. Prince Ivan and Tsarevna then unite in love and a wedding, all present giving thanks. 

 

DANCING QUEEN:  The Music of ABBA

7:30 PM, Saturday, September 22, 2018
Thalia Mara Hall

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The Swedish pop sensation’s tunes come to glittering life in the hands and harmonies of Jeans ‘n Classics vocalists and MSO.  Iconic and irresistible, these hits conquered charts, hearts, and even Broadway with the musical Mamma Mia!  Have the time of your life – again! 

Cash bar in the lobby prior to the concert and at intermission. 

Concert Calendar

January 2019
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Upcoming Performances

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone™ in Concert

Sat, Jan 19, 2019, 8:00 PM

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone™ in Concert

Sun, Jan 20, 2019, 2:00 PM

Selby and Richard McRae Foundation : RUSSIAN FLAIR

Sat, Jan 26, 2019, 7:30 PM

THE TEXAS TENORS

Sat, Feb 02, 2019, 7:30 PM

Selby and Richard McRae Foundation : STRING SENSATION

Sat, Feb 16, 2019, 7:30 PM