The orchestra performed three pieces Friday night. Sidereus, by Argentinean composer Osvaldo Golijov, was commissioned by the Louisville Orchestra (along with 34 other ensembles) in honor of the retirement of Henry Fogel, President and CEO of the League of American Orchestras. According to the program notes, the title refers to the first telescopic observation of the moon as described by Galileo in his “Sidereus Nuncius”, or Starry Messenger. A short overture, the orchestra played it well, and with enthusiasm. That was followed by featured soloist Andre Levine, principal clarinet for the Louisville Orchestra, performing Clarinet Concerto No. 1 in F Minor, J. 114 by Carl Maria Von Weber. Weber is best known for his operas and as the first person to use a baton to conduct. He also was one of the first to compose solos for the newly redesigned clarinet. Levine played the piece extremely well, demonstrating incredible technical proficiency on several chromatic runs as well as the outstanding command of dynamics and tempo required by this beautiful piece.
Finally, the orchestra closed with Scherehezade, op. 35 by Nikolai Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsikov. One of the best known pieces of music to come from Russia, and inspired by the proximity of what was then called the Orient. The piece is based on One Thousand and One Arabian Nights, which tells of a Sultan who executes his wife for infidelity and proceeds to marry a thousand women, executing each after their wedding night. Scherehezade fears for her sister’s life as she is a member of the Sultan’s harem, and volunteers to spend the night with the Sultan. Beautiful and clever, she fascinates him with stories and jokes, ultimately causing him to end the slaughter. The two themes, one angry and strident as the Sultan, the other soothing and clever as Scheherezade, confront each other before coming together in the final movement. The piece is masterful and compelling, and the Orchestra’s performance did it justice.
Of equal interest is the concert-going experience. One can imagine the stereotypical image of an Orchestra crowd, well heeled and sophisticated. Certainly that’s true, but Friday night I encountered people of all ages and backgrounds who were wearing everything from suits to jeans and t-shirts. I ran into old friends, met new people, and had a tremendous time. The Friday evening performance started at 8:00, and with a total of 71 minutes of music, we were leaving at 9:45. It’s a great way to start, or end, your evening. If you would like to experience the rebirth of the orchestra, much like the one it experienced in the 40s and 50s, there are still some concerts left this season.
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Photo: Louisville Orchestra