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Purdue Orchestras explore
music of Eastern
Music reflecting the Bohemian culture of Eastern Europe fills the December concert of the Purdue Philharmonic and Symphony Orchestras set for 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 4, at the Long Center, 111 N. Sixth St., Lafayette.
Works by Dvorak, Kodaly, Smetana, Von Dohnanyi and Bartók will paint a picture of the Eastern European countries that the Purdue Orchestra will visit in May 2011 on a Study Abroad program that gives them the opportunity to concertize in Hungary, Poland, Austria and the Czech Republic.
Conductor Andrew King will be joined on the podium by James Spinazzola, currently Associate Professor of Music and Director of Instrumental Activities at the University of Indianapolis.
Setting the mood for the evening falls to the Symphony Orchestra which opens the concert with Dvorak’s "Slavonic Dance No. 1." Lively and nationalistic, as are many of the pieces on the program, Dvorak’s "Slavonic Dances" were well received when they debuted in the 1880s and continue to be among the composer’s most memorable works today, still making appearances in popular culture.
Kodaly’s "Hary Janos Suite" gives audiences a chance to hear a folk opera written by this Hungarian composer. The Symphony Orchestra presents two movements from the opera, with percussion soloist Pamela J. Nave, that tell the story of a veteran hussar in the Austrian army in the first half of the 19th century who sits in the village inn regaling his listeners with embellished tales of heroism.
According to Kodaly, "Hary Janos" is "the personification of the Hungarian story-telling imagination. He does not tell lies; he imagines stories; he is a poet. What he tells us may never have happened, but he has experienced it in spirit, so it is more real than reality."
The Symphony Orchestra completes their part of the program with the "Moldau" from a cycle of symphonic poems by Vlast Smetana titled "Ma Vlas" or My Country. The son of a Bohemian brewer, Smetana is seen as the founder of a Czech national school of music. This piece portrays a river, called the Moldau by German-speaking Czechs such as Smetana, which flows through the Bohemian countryside and the city of Prague before joining the River Elbe. For Smetana, the course of the river provided a ready-made musical structure; "Moldau" is a sort of rondo, with the flowing theme of the river recurring in different forms between colorful episodes depicting Bohemian life and folklore along the riverside.
When the Philharmonic Orchestra takes the stage, they’ll present Ernst von Dohnanyi’s "Symphony No. 1 in D Minor" and Bela Bartók’s "Four Orchestral Pieces." The two Hungarians composers were contemporaries and both were recognized pianists. At 17, Von Dohnanyi entered the newly established Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest, the first Hungarian of significant talent to do so. Bartok entered soon after. Von Dohnanyi was honored with the Hungarian Millennium Prize for his nationalist "Symphony No. 1" in 1895. He eventually emigrated to the United States and joined the faculty of Florida State University in Tallahassee.
Bartók, who also brought his career to the United States, is known for a compositional style that’s a synthesis of folk music, classicism, and modernism. His melodic and harmonic sense is profoundly influenced by the folk music of Hungary, Romania and other nations. He was especially fond of the asymmetrical dance rhythms and pungent harmonies found in Bulgarian music.
The concert is sponsored by Purdue Bands & Orchestras which offers a variety of free concerts throughout the school year.
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