Utah Symphony Chamber Concert features music from different eras
Utah Symphony Chamber Concert 7:30 p.m., Friday, Jan. 18 St. Mary’s Catholic Church, 1505 White Pine Canyon Rd. $15-$40 utahsymphony.org
When Utah Symphony Associate Conductor Conner Gray Covington programs an evening of music, he usually has a centerpiece in mind.
Once he selects the piece, he’ll start to stack other works around it. That’s how the Utah Symphony’s chamber concert that will be held Friday, at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, was programmed.
The pieces Covington selected are Haydn’s Symphony No. 49 in F minor, “La Passione;”
T.J. Cole’s “Death of a Poet;” Britten’s “Soirees musicales,” Op. 9; and Mozart’s Symphony No. 39 in E-flat Major, K. 543.
“This one started with the Mozart,” Covington said. “I wanted to do that because it’s one of his last three symphonies and known as one of his masterpieces.”
The Utah Symphony last performed the piece seven years ago.
“I’ve only conducted it during a couple of rehearsals, but I have never performed it,” Covington said. “So I’m looking forward to it.”
After Covington decided on the Mozart, he looked around for pieces of different styles that would complement the work. To come up with this program, like he has in the past, Covington looked to works from other eras to give it variety.
“The Mozart is from 1788, and the Haydn is from 1761,” he said. “It’s part of the London Symphonies, which were the last 12 symphonies (Haydn) wrote.”
Haydn composed the work when he was working at the Esterházy Courts, and his benefactor was Hungarian Prince Nikolaus Esterházy.
“I played it when I was in youth orchestra in high school,” Covington said. “I have loved it every since, and I wanted to do it.”
The conductor said the composition is different from other pieces of its time because it starts with a slow movement.
“It has a brooding minor quality,” he said. “It’s the only symphony Haydn wrote in F minor, which is something of note out of (his) 104 symphonies.”
Covington selected the Britten work after being introduced to it six months ago by the Oregon Mozart Players, a chamber group based in Eugene.
The work, which Britten composed in 1936, sounds more like Rossini than Britten, Covington said.
The reason for this is because it is based on some melodies Rossini wrote. The first movement is based on the William Tell March, and the rest of the movements are based on small piano pieces Rossini wrote later in his life, the conductor said.
“‘William Tell’ premiered in 1829, and Rossini was not even 40 at the time,” Covington said. “He was, however, at the top of his game. So he retired after that.”
From then until his death in 1868, Rossini wrote smaller piano compositions that were only played at private gatherings, according to Covington.
“The rest of the Britten piece is based on those compositions,” he said. “I think it’s a testament to Britten that he could take a melody and transport himself completely into the style of different composers.”
“Death of a Poet,” by T.J. Cole, has a personal connection to Covington.
“T.J. is a good friend of mine, and we met when we were studying at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia,” he said. “Although she is only in her 20s, she has already been commissioned to create works for symphonies in Baltimore, Louisville and Indianapolis.”
Cole earned her bachelor’s degree in composition from the institute, and composed “Death” in 2014.
“She completed the piece before I got to Curtis, but I heard a recording of it and have wanted to do it ever since,” Covington said.
“Death of a Poet” was written solely for strings, and Cole took inspiration from a 1925 painting called “The Death of the Poet Walter Rheiner” by Conrad Felixmuller.
The dark oil painting on canvas depicts Rheiner succumbing to an overdose of morphine, Covington said.
“When you listen to the piece and look at the painting, you will see how they fit together,” he explained. “The painting has some super rich and dense blues, purples and greens. And the music speaks to that color palate.”
In addition to complementing each other, the works will also challenge the Utah Symphony musicians.
“The program runs the gamut, and it’s been awhile since the symphony has performed the Mozart,” Covington said. “Also, the second and last movement of that work are huge violin pieces that are used in auditions. If you are a violinist, there is a good chance you will play one of these movements during an audition for any given symphony in the country.”
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