Utah Symphony strings plan chamber concert through the ages
Performance will be at St. Mary’s
The Utah Symphony strings players want to invite Park City on a journey through the centuries.
The strings will perform a chamber concert titled “Serenade for Strings” at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 18, at St. Mary’s Catholic Church. The program will feature works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber, Gustav Holst and Pyotr Tchaikovsky, said Madeline Adkins, Utah Symphony concertmaster.
“The program features one piece from each century, starting with the 16th century and moving to the 20th,” Adkins told The Park Record. “I worked with our artistic vice president (Anthony Tolokan) to select a program that would not only be a great variety for our audience, but also for the players. So, this is also a program that I would like to attend.”
The concert will start with Mozart’s “Divertimento in D” from 1776 and continue with Biber’s “Battalia,” composed in 1673, and Holst’s “St. Paul’s Suite,” which was written in 1912, but not published until 1922.
The evening will end with Tchaikovsky’s 1880 piece, “Serenade for Strings,” which many ballet aficionados will recognize from George Balanchine’s 1934 piece, “Serenade.”
“Another thing that is interesting is that all of these pieces represent different countries,” Adkins said.
Mozart was Austrian. Biber was a Bohemian-Austrian composer. Host hailed from England and Tchaikovsky was Russian.
In addition, the works all feature a folk-song element, which Adkins found intriguing.
“We thought this was an interesting thread that ran through and helped tie the program together,” she said.
The last movement in the Tchaikovsky piece, for instance, has two different Russian folk songs that he incorporated, Adkins said.
“On the same lines, the last movement of the Holst also has two folk songs — the well-known ‘Greensleeves,’ that we hear around Christmastime as well as the Dargason,” she said. “Host weaves these two pieces so beautifully.”
The Biber work is more intricate.
“This is an interesting piece,” Adkins said. “There is a movement that will sound very unusual to the listener because it features eight different folk songs played at the same time.
“While it’s from 1673, it sounds like he put some contemporary music in the midst of this otherwise early-Baroque work,” she said. “There are a couple of popular songs that people would have known at the time that is in this work. It’s such a fascinating movement.”
In addition to capturing the ears of the audience, Adkins said the evening was programmed for the musicians.
“One thing that is important is to select works that are interesting to play,” she said. “This concert, in particular, since we’re not going to play with a conductor, sees the responsibility fall on the individual players, which will be an interesting aspect, because this hasn’t been done in a Park City performance very often.”
As with a string quartet, the 32 string players will need to be aware of everyone else’s parts.
“The principle players will, of course, be very active physically in helping to keep the sections right on track,” Adkins said. “It will be like we’re all collaborating together with the guidance of a conductor.”
Adkins said she enjoys playing concerts like this because of the empowerment.
“When I’ve done this in the past, elsewhere, the players feel invested in the decisions with the music in a very democratic process,” she said. “Plus, the audience will get to see that communication between the players and hear and feel that intimate chamber-music feeling.”
Tuesday’s performance will be the first chamber concert in Park City featuring Adkins as the Utah Symphony’s concertmaster.
The nonprofit organization announced her appointment a little more than a year ago. She officially took the helm last September, succeeding longtime Ralph Matson, who continues his relationship with the symphony as associate concertmaster.
“It’s been a really exciting time for me,” Adkins said. “I’ve been in the orchestra business for a while and it’s exciting to be able to step into this role.
“There is a lot of responsibility, of course, but there is a lot of opportunity to help shape the direction the organization is going musically,” she said. “To feel like I have a lot of impact of what’s happening is very meaningful. I feel like I have such an integral part to play.”
Adkins, the former associate concertmaster of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, loves Utah.
“My husband arrived in September and got to hiking right away,” she said with a laugh. “We spent all of our Sundays out there until the weather made it impossible.
“We enjoy the relaxed atmosphere out here, and we’re excited to explore more of what
Utah and this part of the country has to offer,” she said.
Adkins is looking forward to her future with the symphony, which was founded in 1940, and built into a full-time orchestra by Maurice Abravanel, who served as music director from 1947 to 1979.
“There is such a strong legacy here with [Maestro] Abravanel,” Adkins said. “We just finished the 75th season last year and it will be interesting to see what’s coming up in the next 25 for the 100th season.”
Utah Symphony will perform “Serenade for Strings,” a chamber music concert at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 18, at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, 1505 White Pine Canyon Road. Tickets are $35 for general admission and $15 for students. Tickets can be purchased by visiting http://www.utahsymphony.org or by calling 801-533-6683.
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