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February 4, 2009 > Music from Far and Near

Music from Far and Near

Fremont Symphony's Winter Concert

By Eman Isadiar

Bay Area residents often pride themselves for living in one of the richest cultural centers where the world's sights, sounds and tastes come together. Take this weekend, for example, when we have the unique opportunity to hear symphonic samples from three centuries of music; some from far away places, and others not so far. On Saturday, February 7 at 8 pm, the Fremont Symphony Orchestra will perform music from nineteenth century Austria, twentieth century Denmark, and twenty-first century-you guessed it-Fremont!

While the evening's main attraction is Symphony No. 4 by Johannes Brahms, there was an eleventh-hour change to the concert which now includes guest soloist Laura Bergmann in Carl Nielsen's Flute Concerto. Other pieces on the program are Richard Wagner's overture to the opera "The Flying Dutchman" and symphonic arrangements of tunes composed by Fremont school children orchestrated by Bay Area composer and associate concertmaster of the San Francisco Symphony, Mark Volkert.

Young Artist, Young Composers

As the region's foremost cultural organization, the Fremont Symphony is deeply engaged in activities that foster young audiences as well as young performers. Each year, the symphony conducts a search for local talent in its Young Artist Competition, whose first-prize winner will have the rare opportunity to perform with the orchestra in an evening concert. This competition has helped launch the careers of many highly successful artists including Aileen Chanco, Natasha Premsky and Chloe Pang, to name just a few.

This year's winner is the incredibly talented flautist Laura Bergmann, a graduating senior at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. On Saturday evening, Ms. Bergmann will play the demanding Flute Concerto by Danish composer Carl Nielsen with the Fremont Symphony Orchestra.

The Fremont Symphony also performs two sets of concerts each year especially for children in Fremont and in Milpitas. These free concerts introduce thousands of fourth- through sixth-graders to symphonic music. What's more is that, along with well-known classical pieces, kids can also hear music composed by their own peers.

During the months preceding the children's concerts, Fremont school children compose and submit short melodies, a few of which are selected and orchestrated by composer Mark Volkert to be performed by the Fremont Symphony Orchestra. The selected entries from last year's children's concerts are on the program this Saturday evening. Prepare to be dazzled and amazed!

A long-time collaborator of the Fremont Symphony, Mark Volkert is also the composer of "Fanfare for Fremont", which was premiered in three hugely successful performances in 2006 to celebrate Fremont's 50th birthday. The composer's wife, Jan Volkert, plays first violin with the Fremont Symphony.

Wagner's Wandering Ghost Ship

Founding director of the two-year old Fremont Opera, David Sloss has had a long and distinguished career as an opera conductor parallel to his tenure as music director of the Fremont Symphony. Sloss' deeply-rooted passion for opera is apparent in the symphony's programs, which tend to include at least one opera overture every other season. This time, Maestro Sloss brings us the overture to "The Flying Dutchman" by Richard Wagner.

There are many regional variations of the legend of the haunted wandering vessel. In Wagner's version, the captain of the cursed ghost ship has the fleeting opportunity-only once in every seven year-to drift ashore and find a woman who will love and marry him. If the new bride remains faithful and devoted to the captain, the curse is broken. Otherwise, the captain and his ship must for another seven years brave the vengeful seas in a cycle that could continue forever.

A distinguishing feature in the operas of Richard Wagner is his ingenious use of "leitmotifs", which are brief melodic phrases each associated with a character in the story. Interestingly, every single one of the leitmotifs in the "Flying Dutchman" is introduced in the overture, which will be performed as a stand-alone concert piece in Saturday evening's program.

Brahms' Fourth: A Symphonic Jewel

Much of what we now call "classical music" is owed to the pioneering work of Austrian composers Haydn and Mozart, who developed a set of templates for organizing their musical ideas into logical forms, such as sonata-allegro, theme and variation, and rondo. These templates enabled them to compose an impressive number of symphonies, which made Austria-and particularly Vienna-into Europe's musical capital. Composers from neighboring Germany, including Beethoven and later Brahms, would naturally seek to reside in Vienna for this reason.

The length, and complexity of Beethoven's orchestral works, however, took symphonic writing to the next level and made it into a daunting task for subsequent generations of composers. While Haydn wrote more than a hundred symphonies, Beethoven produced only nine, and Brahms a meager four. Yet Brahms' four symphonies can arguably rival all of Haydn's 104 in weight and content.

This Saturday evening, David Sloss will lead the Fremont Symphony in the fourth and final symphony of Johannes Brahms, which is said to be the crowning achievement of this great musical mind of the 19th century.

Fremont Symphony's Winter Concert
Saturday, February 7
8 p.m.
Smith Center at Ohlone College
43600 Mission Blvd., Fremont
(510) 794-1659

Tickets: $20 - $43

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