‘The New World’

Williamsport Symphont Orchestra showcases pieces written in American for upcoming show

What better way to start off Valentine’s Day celebrations with a romantic night at the Symphony? The Williamsport Symphony Orchestra will present, “The New World,” 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Community Arts Center, 220 W. Fourth St.

Named for a famous symphony by Czech composer Antonin Dvorak, Symphony No. 9, “The New World,” the night’s show will include music that was written in America.

Maestro Gerardo Edelstein said Dvorak set out to write music that he felt described America as he saw it. “He started listening to Native American, African America and jazz — all music that was played here,” he said. At the time, Dvorak was also the director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York.

The concert will also feature music from Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein, both great America composers. Audiences will hear pieces from “On the Town,” showcasing the buzz, hype and energy of the city with a story that tells of sailors coming to American and exploring the city for the first time.

Copland’s piece, “Quiet City,” shows the opposite of that.

“It’s a nocturno approach, and much slower. We hear a much more contemplative, profound piece,” Edelstein said. In this piece, audiences can also hear two soloists, Dale Orris on trumpet and Sue Laib, on oboe.

The program will finish with living composer Jennifer Higdon’s piece, “Blue Cathedral,” a piece that was written for the 75th anniversary of the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. Higdon also dedicated the piece to her late brother. The composer herself described the piece as, “Blue like the sky, where all possibilities soar.”

“It’s not a necessarily religious piece, but it has that kind of monumental feeling,” Edelstein said. “Her idea is to get inside of the cathedral and look up, like you’re looking up at the sky.”

Higdon has won a Pulitzer Prize in 2010 and also a Grammy in 2009.

“This piece made her famous,” Edelstein explained, “I heard this piece several years and was so impressed. It has colorful orchestration and beautiful musical lines. It’s very rare to find a female composer so successful like Higdon, unfortunately. We are still a little behind in the terms of the exposure of women composers and conductors.”

Edelstein said this is a trend that is increasing in the classical music world, though. Recently, as director of orchestral studies at Penn State University, he has had three female students go on to become successful composers and conductors. “I hope it’s a trend and that we see more and more.”

For this concert, the Symphony will present new and old pieces, that mix the classical with the innovative. When comparing the older and no longer living composers with the living composers, Edelstein said there are blatant differences, but they each have a strong classical base.

“There is an evolution. Newer pieces tend to be more exploring sounds, more innovative. For audiences, that might be a little scary to introduce a new approach,” he said. “But they still have a strong classical base. All of these newer composers aren’t writing something totally unlistenable. They simply try to write with a strong foundation. But they are always looking for new ideas, approaches and colors. The results are extremely interesting and inspiring.”

For Edelstein, while there is a difference between “bad” and “good” music, what matters most to him is that there is a reaction from the listener.

“Musicians look at it from a more scientific side, because we deal with this every day. We analyze the music and expect certain things. But really at the end of the day, the important thing is how much the music affects the listener. Is it able to move them? Does it make them feel something, have a reaction? Even if the reaction is something unpleasant, at least it’s a reaction. Not everyone is going to like what they see or hear. But if it gets a reaction? Then its done is job.”

For tickets to the show on Tuesday, visit www.williamsportsymphony.org or call the Community Arts Center Box Office at 570-326-2424.

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