Symphony Orchestra will play American classics on Saturday

by Mac Emery | 2/25/15 6:04pm

A trinity of American classics will flood the Spaulding Auditorium with distinctive American style, vigor and sound at the Dartmouth Symphony Orchestra’s winter concert on Saturday.

The DSO will perform a trio of American or American-inspired classics. The night will begin with “Buckaroo Holiday,” a section from the ballet “Rodeo” (1942) by American composer Aaron Copland. The orchestra will then follow with George Gershwin’s classic “An American in Paris” (1928). After a brief intermission, the event will conclude with an enduring favorite — Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 in E minor, commonly dubbed “The New World Symphony” (1893).

DSO violinist Lindsey Lam ’15 said that while the pieces are distinct in their own right, the concert’s program centers on an American theme that will present challenging classics that appeal to a broader audience.

“Buckaroo Holiday,” the first piece of the night, firmly stamps this American theme onto the event. The piece combines both folk and modern elements, cellist Eddie Pyun ’18 said.

“You can see especially in Copland that notion of incorporating folk music into a more modern style,” he said. “In the ‘Buckaroo Holiday,’ Copland just outright uses some American folk melodies. But again, he incorporates that into his own style.”

Copland interweaves these American folk tunes into the ballet score with jubilant, unabashed pride, Lam said, adding that this evokes the Wild West fantasy that captivated imaginations during the period.

The next piece of the night, Gershwin’s famed “An American in Paris,” continues the same overarching “American” theme. The piece refers to Gerhswin’s own trip to Paris while a community of expatriate American artists, including Ernest Hemingway and Pablo Picasso resided there. The piece merges bluesy rhythms with innovative instrumentation to conjure images of the thriving Paris streets, Lam said.

Pyun said that while the piece portrays a foreign locale, it maintains a distinctively American verve and style through its blues quality and evokes the glitz and frenzy of the 1930s.

“It does try to capture an American essence, to define itself as distinctly American music,” Pyun said.

Though Dvořák’s “New World Symphony,” which will finish the concert, is the one piece not by an American composer, it connects to the concert’s theme of America — the Czech composer’s sojourn in the United States inspired what would become his ninth symphony, and attempts to integrate Native American musical themes into the symphony, Lam said.

DSO clarinetist and student manager Kevin Chen ‘15 said that Copland’s depictions of the American landscape and Gershwin’s urban sounds were possible because of Dvořák’s development of the American compositional voice.

Historically, Dvořák played an important role in the formation of a distinctively American music, so it may only be appropriate that his enduringly popular 1893 classic appears alongside later successors of the tradition of American composition.

Dvořák influenced American composition during his tenure as Director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York City during the 1890s, Chen said. Rubin Goldmark, who studied under Dvořák, influenced both Copland and Gerswhin.

This year’s winter concert follows a recent DSO tour through Europe over the winter break that included Budapest, Belgrade and Sarajevo. The experience of performing in front of receptive audiences provided continued inspiration to the DSO’s mission for excellence and brought the DSO closer as a community, Lam said.

The concert will occur at 8 p.m. on Saturday in Spaulding Auditorium. Tickets will be between five dollars and $15 for students and $10 and $15 for community members.