Purdue Symphony offers ‘Classical Treasures’ for the holidaysThe playfulness of Beethoven, the fury of Holst and the lyric beauty of Elgar comprise the “Classical Treasures” the Purdue Symphony Orchestra offers in a special holiday concert in the Long Center following the annual Lafayette Christmas Parade on Sunday, Dec. 2.
The parade, which winds through the downtown, begins at 2 p.m. and features the Purdue “All-American” Marching Band. Then the crowds are invited inside for a free 4 p.m. concert at the Long Center, located at 111 N. Sixth St. in the heart of Lafayette’s downtown.
Both the marching band and the orchestra come under the musical umbrella of Purdue University Bands.Cellist Margot Marlatt, a Midwest “treasure” well-known for her performances with the Lafayette Symphony, the Bach Chorale and ensembles from Indianapolis to New York City, will be featured in Elgar’s “Concerto for Violincello and Orchestra in E minor.”
Performing the concerto is a dream come true for Marlatt who was first introduced to the piece as a teenager. A professor at Interlochen Music Academy had invited cello students, including Marlatt, to his home to introduce them to different interpretations of the Elgar. “The most famous 20th century performer to interpret it was Jacqueline du Pré. I fell in love with the piece then and her interpretation of it,” says Marlatt who’s drawn to the emotions in the piece.“In the truest sense of the word it’s a very romantic piece,” she says, and stands as one of the last great pieces of the Romantic era in music. “It was written in 1919. Soon after that the ‘Rite of Spring’ was written and music was catapulted into the 20th century modern music era.”
For several decades as a professional musician, Marlatt’s looked for opportunities to play it, but none surfaced until Purdue Symphony conductor Jay S. Gephart asked her to perform it.It proved to be a win-win situation for both sides. “From the first hearing, our orchestra thoroughly embraced the piece. The melody in the first movement is hauntingly beautiful incorporating full brass and percussion in brief moments of power and intensity,” Gephart says.
Marlatt and the orchestra perform the concerto’s first two movements which run together without a break. Alternating moments of tension and release dominate the lyrical first movement while “the second is light and transparent, almost brittle at times with a continuous unraveling of sixteenth notes on the cello,” Gephart says.
The Elgar Concerto is sandwiched between the “Finale” from Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1, and “Mars” and “Jupiter” from The Planets by Gustav Holst. The Beethoven symphony is playful in nature, Gephart says, and showcases the composer’s writing before his trademark, very unorthodox, style developed. “Early Beethoven is characterized by the writing style of Mozart, and follows tradition carefully,” he adds.
The Planets is the composition that brought Holst widespread fame as a composer. “He was a relative unknown when it was written. The whole suite put Holst on the map,” Gephart says. The composer wrote a movement for each planet “but purposefully left out earth because he felt all other music depicts earth.” The symphony will perform “Mars” a stormy piece befitting the ancient god characterized as the bringer of war. Many marching bands, including the Purdue “All-America” Marching Band have drawn musical motifs from “Mars” for use at football games. “Jupiter,” characterized as the bringer of jollity exhibits a totally opposite, very joyful feeling, Gephart says.