Thursday, May 14, 2009

Two More World Premieres in Harrisburg This Week

Earlier this year, there were two world premieres in Harrisburg within a two week period with Philip Glass’ Violin Sonata premiered at Market Square Concerts on February 28th and then Shulamit Ran’s “Lyre of Orpheus” on March 14th as part of Concertante’s on-going commissioning project called “1 + 5.”

This week there are two more world premieres in Harrisburg.

Tonight, Kevin PutsArcana will be given its premiere at Concertante’s last concert of their Harrisburg season. This is another in their “1 + 5” series and will feature cellist Alexis Pia Gerlach with her colleagues. Those who attended Concertante’s preview last night at Harrisburg’s newly renovated Midtown Arts Center “Stage on Herr” (just before the mayoral debate) had a chance to hear the composer describe how the piece came about and what was going on with a few excerpts the musicians teased us with.

Along with Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night) and a Beethoven string trio, you can hear Arcana (which the composer pronounces Arcāna) tonight at 8:00 at the Rose Lehrman Arts Center of the Harrisburg Area Community College. I’ll be doing the pre-concert talk beginning at 7:15 and composer Kevin Puts and cellist Alexis Gerlach are planning on joining us to talk about the music, how it came about and what it’s like bringing a new piece to life.

Then this weekend at the Harrisburg Symphony’s final concert of the season, Jeremy Gill’s Symphony No. 1 will finally be getting its first performance. I say “finally” because, as he put it, the ink was dry on it ten years ago and it’s just been a long wait to get someone to perform it.

He describes it as a one-movement work, inspired by the 7th Symphony of Jean Sibelius and the different creative issues and challenges that arise from writing a full-formed symphony in one continuous movement.

He’s now teaching at Temple University in Philadelphia so he’s not far away from his hometown of Harrisburg. People who attended Market Square Concerts’ January program with pianist Matthew Bengtson playing Bach’s Goldberg Variations also had a chance to hear more recent works including a new work by Jeremy Gill written to honor Elliott Carter as he approached his 100th birthday called “Eliot Fragments” (the Eliot in this case being the poet T. S. Eliot whose lines inspired these very brief pieces). On that occasion, pianist and composer talked to several groups of students as part of Market Square Concerts Soundscape series.

I hope to catch up with Jeremy this afternoon when he talks to the students at Capital Area School for the Arts before heading over to the Forum to hear Stuart Malina rehearse the orchestra in his Symphony.

The concerts are Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 3pm at the Forum. An hour before each performance, Stuart Malina and Jeremy Gill will be talking about the new piece during the pre-concert talk.

The Harrisburg Symphony concert is called “Fate & Fantasy” which applies very well to Tchaikovsky’s 4th Symphony with its fanfare-like fate motive that pervades the piece and to Pablo de Sarasate’s Fantasy on themes from Bizet’s Carmen which has its own fate motive. Concertmaster Odin Rathnam will be the soloist in the Carmen Fantasy and in Beethoven’s Romance in F.

But “Fate & Fantasy” may also apply to a composer writing a symphony today who fantasizes about getting it performed if it wasn’t written on a specific commission in the first place and then is often fated to waiting a long time till he gets a chance to hear it other than in his head.

Soon I’ll be back to tell you about Market Square Concerts’ SummerMusic 2009 which will take place at Market Square Church and the Glen Allen Mill in July – plus look at some of the details of the up-coming new season 2009-2010 which will include a performance by the Cypress Quartet and composer Jennifer Higdon who'll be here with them for that January 2010 concert.

Many of you may remember Ms. Higdon's Percussion Concerto which the Harrisburg Symphony played in March 2008. They'll be playing 'SkyLine' from her CityScape in January 2010. And composer Kevin Puts will be on the Harrisburg Symphony's April concert when they perform his Symphony No. 2, Island of Innocence.

- Dr. Dick