Cape Symphony Opens 51st Season With a Bang (and a Light Show)
By: James Thomas, September 19, 2012
Last season’s 50th anniversary celebration was a time of looking back for the Cape Cod Symphony Orchestra. When the 51st season kicks off this weekend, Maestro Jung-Ho Pak makes clear that the future is now, starting with a dazzling display of music and art at this weekend’s season premiere, “Gallery of Greats.”
The centerpiece of the program is a double performance of Modest Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition,” both in its original setting for solo piano and then in Maurice Ravel’s towering orchestration.
The Russian artist Viktor Hartmann left an unremarkable legacy when he died suddenly in 1873 at the age of 39. He was, it seems, a better friend than painter; his many associates honored him with a posthumous exhibition of his work.
If you go...
Cape Symphony Orchestra
Gallery of Greats
Saturday, September 22 @ 8 PM
Sunday, September 23 @ 3 PM
Barnstable Performing Arts Center
744 West Main Street, Hyannis
Tickets are $27 to $67 and are available at capesymphony.org or by calling 508-362-1111
Modest Mussorgsky was particularly despondent over Hartmann’s passing and would later recall viewing that exhibition “now leisurely, now briskly, in order to come closer to a picture that had attracted his attention and, at times sadly, thinking of his departed friend.”
His lasting tribute, “Pictures at an Exhibition,” was composed for solo piano. Mussorgsky’s private notes refer to the suite simply as Hartmann; the music remained unpublished and likely unperformed during his lifetime. When his complete works were published posthumously, it became immediately apparent that the piece would lend itself to full orchestration. Several prominent orchestrators tried their hand before Maurice Ravel premiered his definitive arrangement in Paris in 1922.
Composed in the same art gallery archetype, Stephen Paulus’s “Voices from the Gallery” wonders aloud what the faces in several of the world’s most famous paintings might think of you as you ponder them. Paulus, a Minnesotan, is among the leading American opera composers of his generation. The performance includes large-form display of the programmatic paintings during the music.
Long before thundering pyrotechnics, liquid light shows, and 100-foot video screens were an expected part of the concert-going experience, Russian composer Alexander Scriabin was experimenting with an orchestral experience enhanced by dazzling visual displays. His composition “Prometheus: Poem of Fire” is scored for orchestra and choir accompanied by “color organ.”
The piece is highly dissonant; the implied key area is not easily accessible by ear. The tone that the composer felt best represented the fundamental of each chord is struck on the color organ, which projects an associated color into the concert space. Award-winning lighting designer Justin Townsend teams up with the CCSO to realize Scriabin’s ground-breaking vision.
The CCSO’s guest this weekend is Adam Nieman, who will perform his own composition, the aptly entitled “Visions,” and also the solo setting of the Mussorgsky composition. The prodigious Nieman made his concert debut in Los Angeles at the age of 11. The Juilliard graduate is a winner of the Rubinstein Award and the Avery Fisher Career Grant, as well as numerous international piano competitions.