Sunday, December 15, 2013

 Humboldt Symphony Plays The Nutcracker Suite   

 In its only concert this December, the Humboldt Symphony performs a holiday favorite, Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite on Sunday December 15 at 3 p.m. in the Fulkerson Recital Hall.

 Leading the program is Brahms’ Academic Festival Overture that conductor Paul Cummings calls “a masterwork—one of the great overtures in the symphonic repertoire. It’s perhaps the hardest piece the Humboldt Symphony has played in the last 5 years or so. But it’s also very rewarding music to play and to hear.” 

 In its fall concert the Humboldt Symphony played four movements of Bartok’s Romanian Folk Dances. In this concert, the orchestra plays all seven dances. “What’s interesting about hearing the whole piece is that as these brief movements progress, Bartok gradually adds more wind instruments to what begins as mostly a string orchestra piece,” Cumming said. “This is fun music, lively and usually with quick tempos. They have nothing of the complexity of Bartok’s more famous works.”

 The Symphony also performs a portion of Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring. Building around a Shaker melody called “Simple Gifts,” Copland’s Pulitzer Prize-winning music was originally intended to accompany a ballet by Martha Graham in 1944. It has since become best known in this form, as an orchestral suite. In this version, Humboldt Symphony returns to the original 13 instruments.

 Performing on Appalachian Spring are two HSU Music faculty members: Cindy Moyer plays violin, and Karen Davy plays viola. “We’re excited about doing this piece,” Cummings said. “It’s a great work, very challenging, and even to do just a portion of it is an ambitious undertaking." 

 At first, Tchaikovsky’s music for The Nutcracker ballet was more highly praised than the ballet itself when it premiered in 1892. This 20 minute suite he created for concerts was also a great success. In more recent decades however the ballet has become wildly popular at Christmastime. 

 Now, said Cummings, part of the appeal of the orchestral suite is imagining the images from the well-known ballet. “The magical qualities of toys coming alive after dark—it appeals to the imagination of children and adults.” But the suite itself is also appreciated for its “wonderful orchestration” of this familiar music.

 The Humboldt Symphony performs on Sunday December 15 at 3 p.m. in the Fulkerson Recital Hall at HSU. Tickets from HSU Ticket Office (826-3928) or at the door. $8/$5 seniors and children. HSU students with ID admitted free. Conducted by Paul Cummings, produced by the HSU Music Department.

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