New Haven Symphony Orchestra celebrates revolution at Fairfield University's Quick Center for the Arts March 26



Image: William BoughtonA close examination of history confirms that the arts often presage cultural and political upheaval. On Friday, March 26 at 8 p.m., Fairfield University's Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts presents the New Haven Symphony Orchestra conducted by its Music Director and Principal Conductor William Boughton in a program that fully supports this statement while it enhances Fairfield University's focus on a Year of Activism. Tickets are $40 and $35. This presentation is part of the Arts & Minds season.

Separated by almost 100 years, two Viennese musical revolutionaries are heard side-by-side. The NHSO plays a classic work by one of the 20th Century's major musical innovators: Arnold Schoenberg's highly charged and romantic musical realization of Richard Dehmel's poem "Verklärte Nacht," Op. 4 (Transfigured Night), which expresses love, nature and anguish. Next on the program is Beethoven's Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major ("Eroica") Op. 55, a revolutionary work that has had an influence great enough to resound for generations and one that initiated a notion that a symphony could be used as a vehicle to convey beliefs and ideas.

This early work of Schoenberg, written in 1899 when the composer was in his twenties, was a precursor to his later atonal works. The piece was originally written in one continuous movement as a string sextet and follows the poetic structure (in five sections) that this powerful poem embraced. According to Schoenberg, his inspiration for this work came from one of the foremost representatives of "the Zeitgeist [moral and cultural climate] in poetry," at the end of the 19th century.

Dehmel was a German Symbolist poet writing before World War I, and Schoenberg notes, "after Brahms's death, many young composers followed the model of Richard Strauss, by composing program music." "Verklärte Nacht" was an example of program music of the day as it illustrated and expressed the poem of Dehmel. It was however, Schoenberg continues, "somehow different from other illustrative compositions, firstly by not being for orchestra, but for a chamber group; secondly because it does not illustrate any action or drama," but embraces the humanity of the situation and of the couple's dilemma and therefore, allows for a broader appreciation for, what he calls, "pure music."

Beethoven was an admirer of Napoleon for restoring order after the bloody French Revolution, but when Napoleon crowned himself emperor, Beethoven cursed the "new tyrant" and ripped in half the third symphony's title page, on which was inscribed the words "Bonaparte" at the top and "Beethoven" at the bottom. The composer eventually inscribed the work "Heroic Symphony composed to celebrate the memory of a great man."

First performed to lackluster reviews in 1805, Beethoven's desire for a new, expanded symphonic form appears to have been lost on the critics. The second movement, which is a funeral march, puzzled some listeners of the day but its' significance in a work dedicated to heroism is proven and in some ways foreshadowed the death of Napoleon. Anton Schindler, Beethoven's early (and, it is said, sometimes unreliable) biographer, noted that upon hearing of the Emperor's death in 1821, Beethoven proclaimed, "I wrote the music for this sad event seventeen years ago."

For this performance, violinist Ani Kavafian is the concertmistress. The 10th music director of the NHSO, Boughton brought with him in 2007 a reputation as one of the foremost English conductors of his generation. In 1980 he founded the English Symphony Orchestra and remained with it for more than 25 years as its artistic and music director and principal conductor. He has conducted leading orchestras from San Francisco to Helsinki and has worked with outstanding soloists on the international circuit, including Nigel Kennedy, Emmanuel Ax and Radu Lupu.

Tickets are $40 and $35 and are available online at fairfield.edu/quick or by calling the Box Office at (203) 254-4010. The toll free number is 1-877-ARTS-396. Special offers and discounts are available through the Quick Center's e-mail list. Join, by contacting boxoffice@quickcenter.com. And become a fan of the Quick Center for the Arts on Facebook! Keep up-to-date with the latest performance news, plus special offers and discounts! Find the Quick Center at www.facebook.com/FairfieldQuickCenter.

Directions: Fairfield University is located off I-95, exit 22 at 1073 North Benson Road, Fairfield, CT 06824.

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Media Contact: Joan Grant, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2950, jgrant@fairfield.edu

Posted on March 9, 2010

Vol. 42, No. 227