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May 6, 2009 > Symphony's Dazzling Season Finale

Symphony's Dazzling Season Finale

By Eman Isadiar

The most eagerly awaited musical event of the season, Fremont Symphony's Spring Concert on Saturday, May 9, marks the end of yet another eventful year and the orchestra's 45th. The program begins at 8 p.m. at the Smith Center of Ohlone College and includes the Overture to "Don Giovanni" by Mozart, Schumann's Piano Concerto with soloist Roy Bogas, "The Unanswered Question" by Ives and Prokofiev's "Classical Symphony."

Mozart's Darkest Opera

Music director David Sloss will lead the orchestra in the opening music from Mozart's darkest opera, "Don Giovanni." The story is about the fabled Don Juan, whose record-breaking love life catches up with him when some of the women he seduced and abandoned conspire against him. Mysterious, unearthly forces are also unleashed against the tyrannical lover until justice is finally achieved in the end.

The "Don Giovanni" Overture contains some of Mozart's most moving music. Composed near the end of his life, the opera represents Mozart at the highest point in his musical maturity and genius, while his health and financial standing were at their absolute lowest. The result is a deeply emotional and poignant opera, whose overture is frequently performed as an orchestral concert piece.

Roy Bogas Plays Schumann's Only Piano Concerto

Romantic composer Robert Schumann has left only one piano concerto, which was actually begun as a single-movement "Fantasy." His wife, Clara, who happens to be one of the most gifted pianists of all time, urged him to expand the piece into a full concerto. Schumann subsequently completed a concerto for violin and another for cello.

The Piano Concerto in A minor has become a work of monumental importance in the genre. Some believe Grieg's hugely popular Piano Concerto (also in A minor) was inspired by Schumann's or perhaps even modeled after it in thematic structure. Bay Area concert pianist and principal solo pianist of the San Francisco Ballet, Roy Bogas will perform Schumann's Concerto with the Fremont Symphony.

Mr. Bogas began his extensive musical career at the age of 14 with the San Francisco Symphony. He received a special prize at the Queen Elisabeth of Belgium International competition in 1960 and in 1962 he was a prizewinner at the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, making his New York and London debuts the following year. In addition to recital work, he has performed as soloist with many other orchestras in the U.S. and abroad.

To Be (Tonal), or Not to Be (Tonal)...

In "The Unanswered Question" by American composer Charles Ives, the strings could be said to represent the peaceful stillness of the universe, which is interrupted by a musical question posed by a single trumpet-perhaps representing the voice of man. The woodwinds then try to answer the trumpet's question, but grow more and more frustrated with each attempt.

Some believe this work expresses the twentieth century's collective struggle between tonal, concordant music, which is more easily understood by the unsophisticated listener, and the emerging school of dissonant atonal music, whose significance is largely intellectual or ideological.

Similar movements were taking place in literature and in the visual arts at the turn of the last century-a century deeply marked by the "death of God." Artists, writers, composers and painters all began to question the age-old notions of beauty and symmetry, while acknowledging the harsh, disturbing, or simply neutral aspects of existence without the need to "glorify" anything in their work.

While the proverbial question still remains unanswered, Ives' work provides much food for thought, or rather, for the ear.

Prokofiev's Tribute to Haydn

Another perfect example of the musical dichotomy of the twentieth century is Prokofiev's "Classical Symphony", also being performed on May 9. Similar to his contemporaries, Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev was haunted by the creative urge to explore new musical territories, free from the cumbersome rules and restrictions of bygone ages.

Yet Prokofiev was also pulled by a return to older, established musical forms-an artistic philosophy which later became labeled as "Neoclassicism" and was espoused by other influential twentieth century composers, including Stravinsky.

In his First Symphony, 26-year old Prokofiev emulates the symphonies of Haydn written some 150 years earlier, but infused with his own distinctive voice. It is written in four movements, with the two slower movements in the middle.

The "Classical Symphony" has become by far Prokofiev's most popular and most frequently performed orchestral composition.

For tickets and additional information, please visit or call (510) 794-1659.

Symphony's Dazzling Season Finale
Saturday, May 9
8 p.m.
Ohlone College's Smith Center
43600 Mission Blvd., Fremont
(510) 794-1659
Tickets: Adults $43, Students $20

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