Symphony offers 'Classical Treasures' from Mozart to Williams
Treasures from the classical repertoire – from Amadeus Mozart in the 18th century to John Williams in the 20th century - fills a Sunday, Nov. 24 concert by the Purdue Symphony Orchestra and its guest, the Penn High School Symphony Orchestra from Mishawaka.
The free event is set for 2:30 p.m. at the Long Center, 111 N. Sixth St. No tickets are needed.
Not only does the concert flip between centuries in its hunt for “Classical Treasures,” it flips between countries as well with themes that take you to Italy, Ireland, France and the mythical “Underworld.”
Offenbach’s “Orpheus in the Underworld Overture” is best known for its Parisian can-can dance theme, even though that constitutes only a minute part of the piece. “There’s a whole lot of unfolding in this piece before you get to the can-can, but it’s hardly ever presented,” says Purdue Symphony conductor Jay Gephart, who invites audiences to listen for “an incredibly complex cello solo and a lyrical violin solo” that precedes the flashy dance music.
Eugene Lee, a senior computer science major from Glenview, Ill., is featured in the cello solo “which is rich and lyrical and really portrays the warmth of the cello. It’s like a baritone voice singing above the orchestra,” Gephart says.
The Penn Orchestra from Mishawaka presents one of Mozart’s best-known compositions – “Symphony No. 40” – whose melodies pop up in movie music and cartoons as well as in the concert hall. Penn’s appearance is in conjunction with Purdue Bands “Partners in Music Education” program which links Purdue with a different Hoosier high school each year.
The Mozart symphony ranks as a treasure, not only because of its popularity, Gephart says, but because it’s “a great example of Mozart’s ability to make complex music sound simple.”
Purdue’s orchestra completes the concert with two pieces where composers drew their inspiration from countries far from home. There’s “Cappriccio Italien” by the Russian composer Tchaikovsky, and “Far and Away” with Irish themes by the contemporary American composer John Williams.
“Tchaikovsky is a composer who writes incredibly well using musical elements of a particular people or region. ‘Cappriccio Italien’ is an example of his use of folk idioms to depict a particular culture, but because he is Russian he melds the character of Italian music with Russia,” Gephart says.
The piece opens with trumpets making “as boldy stated a theme as you’ll hear anywhere in classical music,” he says. “Tchaikovsky’s music is also all about color and captures the unique sounds of the various instruments. In this composition every individual player in every section has solo responsibilities.”
The conductor feels no concert of “Classical Treasures” would be complete without visiting the work of John Williams. “What’s an orchestra concert without John Williams. His music has become as American as Aaron Copland,” says Gephart, who annually treats Greater Lafayette audiences to lush orchestrations of the composer’s movie music.
His choice for the Nov. 24 concert is music from “Far and Away,” a Tom Cruise-Nicole Kidman film about Irish immigrants. Three different themes dominate the composition which opens with music suggestive of an Irish jig, then goes in a more romantic theme dominated by a flute solo followed by the vigorous music used to underscore a boxing scene in the film. It concludes by revisiting the romantic theme in a full orchestra setting.