Fort Smith Symphony opens with a big bang

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 101 views 

The Fort Smith Symphony under the direction of John Jeter will open the 2012-2013 season with a bang: The Big Bang.

The orchestra’s "Sounds of the Universe" concert will be heard 7: 30 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 29, at the Arkansas Best Corporation Performing Arts Center.

According to Music Director John Jeter, “as of this time we have surpassed season ticket sales numbers from last year and will probably surpass all previous sales records.”

The "Sounds of the Universe" promises to be a stunning season opener. The orchestra has opted for a slate of iconic orchestral works that will guarantee an electric charged concert hall experience as the orchestra returns from their summer hiatus.

Headlining the season opener is The Planets, Gustav Holst's seven movement orchestral suite that premiered in London in 1920 and rapidly became a favorite for orchestras and audiences worldwide. The Planets, op.32 is Holst's most often performed work and one of the most recorded works in the orchestral canon.

Jeter said the orchestra has wanted to program The Planets for years.

“The 2012-13 season focuses somewhat more on the orchestra than in some previous seasons where guest artists or collaborative efforts have shared center stage.  One might say this season is slightly more traditional in nature than some of our others … (The Planets) is a piece audience members have been asking us to perform for quite some time,” he explained.

Because music from The Planets "fits the role" it is often used and copied for interplanetary/outer space film and TV soundtracks. However, Holst based the movements on astrology not astronomy. Each movement represents the characteristics of the Roman deity for whom each planet is named: "Mars, the Bringer of War," "Venus, the Bringer of Peace," "Mercury, the Winged Messenger," etc. rather than the planets in outer space.

Although Holst was well known for his choral writing he included the choir on only one of his planets, Neptune. The UAFS Women's Choir, Rager Moore II, Director, will join the Fort Smith Symphony orchestra for this mystic Planet finale. As tradition dictates, the choir will be heard and not seen.  Jeter said the choir would be positioned “…off stage behind the orchestra shell (to my right).”

A “Beyond the Score” session will take place prior to performing The Planets. Jeter added, “…this has been a hugely popular aspect of our concerts that we do at most of our classics performances.  After intermission I will talk briefly about The Planets and have the orchestra perform some excerpts to help illustrate what we are explaining to the audience.  This usually lasts about 6-8 minutes and then we perform the work in its entirety.”

Guest artist Charlie Albright, winner of the Gilmore Young Artist Award (2010) and the Young Concert Artists International Auditions (2009) will join the orchestra for Mozart's beloved Piano Concerto No. 21, K.467, C Major.

The Piano Concerto No. 21 was written in 1785 (along with two other great concertos, D minor, K. 466 and E-flat major, K. 482) during a time when Mozart's role as the darling of Vienna was in decline. Mozart premiered the concerto in March and its success helped bolster his fading popularity and added much needed income to his financial struggles. According to Leopold, his father, who wrote about the premier of the concerto, "Most of the audience was moved to tears by the beauty of the music."

Albright is also the winner of the Louis Sudler Prize in the Arts from Harvard University (2011) and has been named the Artist in Residence for Harvard University's Leverett House for 2011-2012, a position last filled by Yo-Yo Ma.

Jeter said he has worked closely with Young Concert Artists Inc., Albright’s manager, for 17 years.

“Charlie has a reputation for doing splendid work on Classical and early Romantic composers so he is a perfect fit for the Mozart Concerto,” Jeter noted.

Albright was booked about a year prior to the concert. He will rehearse the Mozart twice with the orchestra before the Sept. 29 performance, Jeter said.

The curtain riser for the Sept. 29 Fort Smith Symphony concert is Beethoven's spellbinding Overture to Egmont, op.84.

In 1809 after Napoleon's occupation of Vienna, Beethoven was commissioned to write incidental music for Goethe's play Egmont based on the Spanish rule in the Netherlands in the mid 1500's. The theme of tyrannical government toppled by freedom loving people was welcomed by the humanistic Beethoven as a way of celebrating Napoleon's departure from Vienna. The work that begins with gathering clouds of doom ends in, as Goethe requested, a "Symphony of Victory."

Other concerts for the Fort Smith Symphony 2012/2013 season are listed below.

“Seating is very limited so folks should call the Symphony for tickets sooner than later. Typically, we sell out for all concerts,” Jeter said.

• "A Swingsational Classical Makeover"
Saturday, Oct. 20, 7:30 p.m., featuring the Capital Quartet.

• "A Simply Sinatra Christmas"
Saturday, Dec. 1, 7:30 p.m., with vocalist Steve Lippia.

• "Evening Serenade"
Saturday, Jan. 26, 7:30 p.m., featuring Er-Gene Kahng, Violin Concerto No. 2 in D minor.

• Back by popular demand "The Musical Magic of John Williams"
Saturday, April 20, 7:30 p.m.

• "Sonic Boom!"
Saturday, May 4, 7:30 p.m., with guest artists David Carter, Copland's Clarinet Concerto and the UAFS University Chorale, Daphnis and Chloe, Suite No.2.