Utah Symphony kicks off Chamber Series in Park City | ParkRecord.com

Utah Symphony kicks off Chamber Series in Park City

French music will be the flavor of the evening when the Utah Symphony kicks off its Chamber Music Series at St. Mary’s Catholic Church on Thursday.

The program will feature Claude Debussy’s "Six Epigraphes Antiques," Jean Francaix’s "Serenade pur Petit Orchestra," Francis Poulenc’s "Sextet for Piano and Winds" and Janques Ibert’s "Divertissement."

David Loebel, associate director of the Orchestras at the New England Conservatory in Boston, Massachusetts, will serve as guest conductor.

"This is the first time that I’ll be working with the Utah Symphony," Loebel said during a phone call to The Park Record from his office in Boston. "The favorite part of my job is learning the music and working with these great musicians, especially when it comes to the musicians in the Utah Symphony, which has a wonderful reputation."

The night will begin with the Debussy work, which is quite different than the other three, according to Loebel.

"This is one of the last pieces he wrote and it began life as a work for two pianos," Loebel explained. "It exists in versions for other instrumental groups. There’s an arrangement for large orchestra and then there is the version we’ll play for string orchestra, which I didn’t know existed until I found out I was conducting it. So I’ll be very interested to hear what it sounds like."

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Debussy composed the piece near the end of his life.

"At that time, he was trying to simplify many things in his life, which many composers do," Loebel said. "It has certain characteristics that his other works have. It’s very evocative and very atmospheric, but I would have to say that this particular piece is quite understated, but quite beautiful."

The main reason "Six Epigraphes Antiques" differs than the other three is that it was composed in 1914 and the others were all composed within a five-year period some 10 years after, Loebel said.

"Debussy was such a major figure in French music at the beginning of the 20th century and I think the other three composers on the program had the idea that his style of music wasn’t really for them," he said. "World War I was a real dividing line. The Debussy was composed the year the war started and the others came afterwards.

"So what happened was a style of music that was referred to in hindsight as neo-classical, where the composers tried to simplify and emulate Mozart and Haydn," Loebel said. "Those composers that placed a great premium on clarity, style and facility, without necessarily trying to make a ground statement. And I think the last three pieces do that."

Instead of being atmospheric and evocative, the other three works are a lot of fun, he said.

"There isn’t any other way to put it," Loebel explained. "They are all very airy, light and cute. So there will be a real contrast in the program."

In fact, the Ibert is one of the funniest works ever written, he said.

"I think if anyone thinks they have heard this piece as a soundtrack for a cartoon, they would be right," he said. "It would fit so well in the Bugs Bunny and Roard Runner shows, because it’s really slapstick music."

That said, the music is still cleverly done.

"I think one of the characteristics of these four French composers of the time is that there is a real facility in their technique as composers." Loebel said. "They were all very well-schooled and knew how to write effectively for the instruments. The works may not be the most profound music ever written, but there is a terrific craft to all the pieces that was engrained in French composers at the time."

Loebel believes the concert can be enjoyed on two levels.

"If people want to come to a concert and have a good time, they can" he said. "Those who are better acquainted with these composers, will find much to admire as well."

This entire concert is designed to be performed by small ensembles.

"Debussy will be performed on strings and the Francaix will be performed by strings and brass," Loebel said. "The Poulenc will be performed by piano and wind quintet and the Ibert falls in between with a small group of strings, winds, brass, piano and percussion."

The Utah Symphony contacted Loebel a week before Christmas to see if he was available to conduct.

"This is what musicians deal with all the time and I have to say, actually, having three weeks notice is quite the luxury," he said with a laugh. "There have been times when I have gotten a phone call for a concert the next day.

"We’re going to discover something together," Loebel said. "It will be a group effort so we can communicate the music the best we can.

"People have an image of conductors that stand in front of an ensemble waving their arms," he said "We are the person that people watch, but the performance does not emanate from the conductor. My goal is to create a framework in which the orchestra can do its best work."

The Utah Symphony will kick off its Chamber Concert Series at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, 1505 White Pine Canyon Road, on Thursday, Jan. 15. The music will begin at 8 p.m. Tickets are $35 for general admission and $10 for students. Ticket can be purchased by calling 801-355-ARTS or by visiting http://www.utahsymphony.org .