Friday, April 20, 2012

Symphony Orchestra Augusta concludes Aiken season with concert on April 27 | Aiken Standard

The following  appeared in the April 20 edition of the Aiken Standard and is repeated here for those who may not have seen it. The Aiken Symphony Guild has been in existence for 26 years and sponsors the concerts described below. For more information about the Guild and the upcoming season go to the website :

Symphony Orchestra Augusta concludes Aiken season with concert on April 27

For the last offering of its annual three-concert series at the Etherredge Center, the Symphony Orchestra Augusta's music director Shizuo Kuwahara has planned a program that he has titled "Dramatic Voices." Not all the "voices" in this April 27 concert will be human - most, in fact, will be instrumental - but there is no doubt that all of them will be "dramatic."
The program will begin with Ludwig Van Beethoven's "Egmont Overture." Composed in 1810 as one of a number of pieces of incidental music for Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's play titled "Egmont," the overture can be divided into three parts, roughly corresponding to the trajectory of any classic struggle: opposition, conflict and (one hopes) victory.

In this case, the "victory" signaled in the conclusion is largely symbolic since Goethe's play is based on the tragic life of Count Egmont, who fought against the Spanish occupation of his native Holland in the 16th century. Egmont and his mistress Klarchen, who commits suicide after failing to save her lover's life, stand in Goethe's eyes - and Beethoven's, too - as martyrs in the fight for freedom.
Following this dramatic overture by Beethoven, the program shifts to three pieces for soprano and orchestra. The first is by Samuel Barber, one of my favorite modern composers - in part because he lived close to where I spent my undergraduate years in Pennsylvania. It is his "Knoxville, Summer of 1915," composed in 1947 and revised in 1950, and based on a text by James Agee from his classic memoir "A Death in the Family."
Essentially, this work is a 15-minute monologue describing a family gathering on the lawn behind the house, all of them lying on quilts laid out on the grass and gazing up at the stars. It is a piece of prose that aspires to the condition of poetry.
Although the speaker is male - Agee's younger self, the composition has nearly always been sung by a soprano. In the case, the honor goes to Laquita Mitchell. A graduate of Westminster Choir College and the Manhattan School of Music, Mitchell won the Grand Prize in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in 2004. Since then, she has appeared around the world; her most notable success, however, was probably her role as Bess in "Porgy and Bess" with the San Francisco Opera.
Her two remaining vocal selections, however, are also relevant to her ongoing career. She is, for example, scheduled to sing the role of Leonora in an upcoming production of Verdi's "Il Trovatore" or "The Troubadour." From that opera, she will perform on the Etherredge Center stage the aria "Tachea la note placida" or "Peaceful is the Night." In this piece, Leonora ponders over her attraction to an unknown knight who has just serenaded her.
Along with this aria from Verdi, Mitchell will perform a selection from Mozart's "Le Nozze (The Marriage) of Figaro." "Dove Sono" or "They Are Over" is the Countess Rosina's mournful acknowledgment that her days of happiness are over since she has discovered the unfaithfulness of her husband.
After an intermission, the orchestra returns to the stage to play Johannes Brahms' monumental "Symphony No. 1," which, appropriately enough is said to be a worshipful homage to Beethoven, the composer whose work opens this evening's concert.
Famous is the story of how Brahms postponed the writing of his first symphony until he was over 40 years of age because he was so intimidated by the thought of trying to compete with Beethoven. "I will never compose a symphony," he once asserted. "You have no conception of how the likes of us feel when we hear the tramp of a giant like him behind us."
Finished in 1876, Brahms' "Symphony No. 1" has, in certain key places, echoes of Beethoven's major work, especially the Fifth and Ninth Symphonies.
For more information on the Friday, April 27, concert of the Symphony Orchestra Augusta, call the Etherredge Center Box Office at 641-3305.
A Carolina Trustee Professor, Dr. Mack holds the G.L. Toole Chair at the University of South Carolina Aiken.

Read more: Symphony Orchestra Augusta concludes Aiken season with concert on April 27 | Aiken Standard
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