Friday, November 04, 2011

Sail and Dance with the Humboldt Symphony

Humboldt Symphony sails with the HMS Pinafore in its fall concert on November 4 in the Fulkerson Recital Hall.

The Overture to HMS Pinafore includes some of the most popular tunes in any Gilbert and Sullivan operetta. Composer Arthur Sullivan wrote other orchestral music, notes Humboldt Symphony conductor Paul Cummings, but today he is chiefly remembered for his operetta collaborations with W. S. Gilbert. “There’s a beautiful slow section in the middle of this piece,” Cumming said, “but in the overture tradition, it starts fast and ends fast.”

The full orchestra that sails with Pinafore also dances with Brahms and Alexander Borodin. “We’re playing two of Brahms’ Hungarian Dances,” Cummings said. “These are among Brahms’ best known compositions, and the two we’re doing—the fifth and sixth—are the most popular. They’ve been arranged for all kinds of ensembles and instrumentations, but we’re doing Brahms’ original arrangement for orchestra.” Based on folk melodies, these 19th century dances are bright and lively with energizing tempo changes, and are credited with influencing the development of ragtime.

Originally written for an opera, Borodin’s Polovtsian Dances are more varied, depicting various moods of the characters. “We’re doing the second movement,” Cumming said. “It has a series of impressive solo passages for clarinet, oboe and English horn.”

The string section takes command for the other two pieces on the program. “Gabriel Faure’s Pavane has a very popular melody,” Cummings notes. “It’s also been arranged for many instruments, but the full string section with two horns and woodwinds expresses its delicate lyricism in a bigger way. There are also beautiful passages for flute in its low register, which you don’t get to hear often.”

The Brook Green Suite by Gustav Holst is entirely a string orchestra piece. “All the instruments have independent voice,” Cummings observed, “and there’s some wonderful counterpoint.” Known as Holst’s most accessible work, the Brook Green Suite was the last of his music that Holst heard performed.

The Humboldt Symphony performs on Friday November 4 at 8 p.m. in the Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus in Arcata. Tickets are $7 general, $3 students/seniors, from the HSU Ticket Office (826-3928) or at the door. Free to HSU students with ID. Conducted by Paul Cummings, produced by HSU Music Department.

Media: TriCity Weekly, Humboldt State Now

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