Dartmouth Symphony Orchestra prepares for big weekend show

by Lucy Randall | 11/16/05 6:00am

At 8:00 p.m. this Saturday in Spaulding, the Dartmouth Symphony Orchestra will perform for the first time this year. The event seems perfectly timed, taking place on the weekend of that last push before Thanksgiving break, when stressed-out students could use an excuse to emerge from their routines at school and rejoin the outside world. Saturday's program promises to transport an audience of both the overly absorbed "paper-finisher-uppers" and those who will begin celebrating vacation early to a mindset far from Hanover. The concert, directed by Anthony Princiotti and featuring Peter Morgenstern '06 on the clarinet, will include Berlioz's "The Roman Carnival Overture," Weber's "Clarinet Concerto No. 2 in E-Flat" and Sibelius' "Symphony No. 2 in D Major," selections which will energize and provide a means of escape for those motivated by curiosity or cultural hunger to go someplace besides the frats or the stacks this weekend.

All three of the DSO's big shows this year promise to maintain the Orchestra's reputation for eclectic and excellent classical music; subsequent concerts consist of Bach and Mahler in February and Copland and Beethoven in May. "This season's programs include works of Weber, Lalo, Brahms, Mozart, Berlioz and P.D.Q. Bach," boasts the Orchestra's website, demonstrating that it wishes to attract music connoisseurs of the Upper Valley who will recognize and appreciate this scope of composers. But the Orchestra primarily aims to draw in the Dartmouth community, since its members are mostly Dartmouth undergraduates, among them Morgenstern, the senior soloist of Saturday's show. While many of the classical music venues at the Hopkins Center may seem detached from the interests of the student body, this performance is the result of the energy and time of students themselves, and therefore shares a special connection with campus life.

Though the unconventional style of the Berlioz selection made it too avant-garde for success in the composer's lifetime, the piece, which will open Saturday's concert, has since been recognized for its musical innovation. Lovesick after traveling in Italy on the tour he won by receipt of the Prix de Rome and composition prize from the Paris Conservatoire in 1830, Berlioz felt inspired to devote his music to Benvenuto Cellini, the Renaissance sculptor famous for his autobiography. The composer believed Cellini's work embodied the beauty of the Italian culture and landscape as well as the artist's struggle to create a masterpiece. The DSO has chosen to perform the overture from "The Roman Carnival," which Berlioz distilled from the failed Cellini opera five years after its catastrophic debut.

The Carl Maria von Weber selection that the Orchestra will perform was one of the composer's few pieces written for the clarinet, and it maintains the theme of youthfulness that characterizes Berlioz's experimental piece. Weber wrote his second clarinet concerto when he was only 24, and though he later would develop mainly into a composer of operas, he demonstrated his knack for dramatic music when writing for this instrument. "Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra No. 2" has proven essential to the canon of compositions for the clarinet, because, unlike Berlioz, Weber received immediate acclaim for this composition. In the two decades that separate the two composers, one can see the shift towards modernity, as Weber's piece was commissioned by the King of Bavaria in 1811, while Berlioz was inspired far more romantically by an FSP-like lark through Europe.

To conclude the creatively combined program of their first concert, the Orchestra will perform Sibelius' "Symphony No. 2 in D Major." Though it pertains less to the theme of youth which unites the Weber and Berlioz selections, this last piece will elegantly resolve the homage to Italy introduced by Berlioz.

Sibelius had originally intended to base the piece on Dante's "Divine Comedy" and only later changed his literary influence to represent an episode in the story of Don Juan in which the protagonist meets Death personified. But in both his originally planned concept and the concept that he chose in the end, Sibelius clearly decides to evoke death in the symphony. The piece therefore offsets the soaring energy of the two more youthful composers with whom Sibelius shares the program. According to the program notes, it is in this opus, finished in 1902, that Sibelius "finally finds his symphonic voice," combining the romanticism of the 19th century that had ended with the "cryptical and elemental" styles ushered in by the new century.

So in short, to end the concert, you will hear the Finnish tones of somber Sibelius to return you to the biting reality of November in New Hampshire. But this will only be after you travel through time and across oceans with some cultured escapism, courtesy of the DSO.