Columbia Orchestra turns to France for 40th season finale

Howard County Times

If you would like to visit France without having to go through airport security, the Columbia Orchestra has an upcoming program that amounts to a musical passport. “The French Connection” will be performed on Saturday, May 19 at 7:30 p.m. in the Jim Rouse Theatre at Wilde Lake.

The French music-oriented program consists of Paul Dukas’ “Sorcerer's Apprentice,” Claude Debussy’s “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun” and Ravel’s “Daphnis and Chloe” and “Bolero.”

“I often avoid doing all-this or all-that concerts, because we do four classical programs a year and I don’t want there to be too much of one thing,” Columbia Orchestra music director Jason Love said. “But these are things we really wanted to do.”

Indeed, Love noted that it will be the first time his orchestra has performed “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun” and “Sorcerer’s Apprentice;” and he added that it has been around 12 years since the orchestra did “Daphnis and Chloe.”

“There is plenty of variety here. These composers share a common tradition, but they differ stylistically,” Love observed.

Dating from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, these French compositions possess the lush romantic qualities associated with the cultural refinement of that period. The music typically is described with such terms as “symphonic poems” or “tone poems,” and, not surprisingly, some of the music had its origins in poetry and as ballet scores.

Based on a poem from 1797 by the German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Dukas’ symphonic poem “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” was composed in 1897. A longtime classical music favorite, its fame extends well beyond the concert hall. That’s because this piece was used by Walt Disney in the 1940 animated film “Fantasia.” So, anybody who loves Mickey Mouse will be familiar with “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.”

Inspired by a poem by Stephane Mallarme, Debussy’s ‘Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun’ is a 1894 symphonic poem. This music was used for a 1912 ballet choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky and then was used again for a 1958 ballet choreographed by Jerome Robbins.

Ravel’s “Daphnis and Chloe” was composed for a one-act ballet for which Michel Fokine adapted an ancient Greek story about the goatherd Daphnis and shepherdess Chloe. It was given its debut by the Ballets Russes in 1912; incidentally, the dancers included Vaslav Nijinsky. Ravel subsequently derived a couple of orchestral suites from this ballet score. The Columbia Orchestra will play the finale of this piece.

Originally composed as a ballet score that was commissioned by the Russian dancer Ida Rubinstein in 1928, “Bolero” is rarely done as a ballet and frequently done as an orchestral piece. Anybody who has seen the 1979 movie “10” can attest to the fact that the insistent sound of “Bolero” is impossible to resist.

The instrumentation for most of the pieces on this program calls for a very full orchestra, so audience members can expect to see more than 100 players on stage.

“We like to pull out all the stops for the grand finale to our 40th anniversary season,” Love said about what promises to be a happily crowded stage.

Also of note is that the upcoming concert will also feature two of the winners of the Columbia Orchestra’s 2018 Young Artist Competition. Oboe player Matthew Miller, the first place winner in the Senior Wind Division, plays Kalliwoda’s Oboe Concertino; and violinist Megan Rabe, the first place winner in the Senior String Division, plays Sarasate’s Introduction and Allegro.

Columbia Orchestra performs on Saturday, May 19 at 7:30 p.m. at Jim Rouse Theatre, 5460 Trumpeter Road in Columbia. Tickets are $22 and $28, $18 and $24 for seniors, and $10 and $12 for students. Call 410-465-8777 or go to columbiaorchestra.org

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