Berkshire Symphony

Berkshire Symphony
"Ironic Juxtapositions"

Ronald Feldman, director

Joana Genova is replacing Joanna Kurkowicz as the soloist in the Mozart.

With this concert, the Berkshire Symphony continues a tradition of bringing together diverse audiences and styles. Edgard Varèse is a composer who doesn’t necessarily appear on the radar of classical music listeners. His music was no less than a shot across the bow of a music establishment at a time when the foundations of western culture were atremble under the weight of a war to end all wars. On hearing the fascinating Intégrales today it will surprise most experienced listeners to learn that the piece is 85 years old. Edgard Varèse, starting this composition in Paris and finishing it in New York in 1925, was an artist in the middle of a scene that saw little point in trying to out-Mozart or out-Brahms classical music. In the context of pre-WWI Berlin and post war Paris and New York expressionism and the dada movement, Varèse makes sense. For audiences today Varèse still seems strange, but less so, especially for those who have ever gone to the movies. These sound-scapes, which gave nineteenth century harmony and melody the backseat, alienated concert audiences of the day. These ideas excited, perhaps ironically, listeners when invoked to accompany the images of the silver screen. Octandre (1923) is scored for flute, clarinet, oboe, bassoon, horn, trumpet, trombone and double bass. Its startling originality reminds us that music is comprised ultimately of sound and that sonic texture can transport us, in and of itself. For listeners who can relate to the music of Stockhausen, Xenakis or Birtwistle, Edgard Varèse is a inescapable reference.

Just as audiences for classical music may not normally see the connection between modern and classical composers, modernists may not appreciate how innovative classical composers were in their own time.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Sinfonia concertante, K. 364 (320d) in E-flat Major. Written in 1779 this piece was trailblazing in its own way, realizing a hybrid of a symphony and a concerto. Joana Genova, violin is joined by her fellow Visiting Artist-in-Residence and violist Scott Woolweaver trade in their principal chairs for a solo stand at the front of the orchestra.

Johannes Brahms: Serenade No. 2 in A Major, op. 16, finished in 1859, was a work, that brought him one step closer to finding expression with the symphony orchestra as his instrument. Though it was many years after this before he went on to compose his symphonies, the work he completed with this serenade provided him with the technical and aesthetic bedrock to add those later works which we now take for granted.

The Berkshire Symphony is conducted by Ronald Feldman and includes nearly 70 members, half of whom are students and half of whom are professional musicians. The ensemble presents four major concerts each season. In addition to performing the great standards of orchestral repertoire a recurring theme each year is the performance of contemporary works. Championing the works of living American composers has been an integral part of the mission of the Berkshire Symphony.

The final program in the spring features the winners of the Berkshire Symphony Student Soloist Competition. This event is a great showcase for the extraordinary talent at Williams College and is always a highlight of the season.