Berkshire Symphony

Berkshire Symphony

The Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield, MA reprises the October 16 concert for $25. For tickets, call 413-997-4444.

The Berkshire Symphony has shared the American Symphony Orchestra League’s ASCAP Award for Adventuresome Programming of Contemporary Music with its conductor and music director Ronald Feldman. Being known for creative and satisfying programming, the Berkshire Symphony Orchestra’s latest is pleasingly eclectic. The orchestra likes to walk a precarious tightrope, challenging ears and minds without indulging in kitsch. The upcoming concert playfully skirts modern programming dangers, with offerings by John Corigliano, John Williams and other modern composers who have made their mark in the movie theater, the moving pictures, if one will. Juxtaposed to this is Mussorgsky’s masterpiece Pictures at an Exhibition, a classic which still offers inspiration for musicians and listeners who visualize sound. This sonic masterpiece uniquely animates the palette of the mind by way of the ears, allowing us to literally see a piece through the composer’s eyes. Presented as a leisurely stroll through an art gallery, Mussorgsky’s masterful homage to his friend, the painter Victor Hartmann, is a thrilling work in the Russian tradition, orchestrated by Ravel. Composer and orchestrator work together to present a number of paintings. Whether the majestic Great Gate of Kiev or the macabre portrait of Baba-Yaga, it is easy to paint one’s own mental portrait of what the paintings would look.

The nexus between the visual and aural runs throughout the concert. As the symphony orchestra adapts to the 21st century with its emphasis on visual media, it is no surprise that visually inspiring works are breaking new ground, especially when catering to the eclectic tastes that modern cinema have helped to foster. It is not only that many listeners find art music of this type more accessible: our listening experiences are adapting to media culture. It is a musical expression of our time. Tastes may evolve, but standards do not: facing skeptical and sophisticated audiences, worthy musical material has to stand for itself.

Ultimately the listener can decide, how modern compositions tailored for a different context measure up to Mussorgsky. Those include pieces inspired by the film scores of the same title, John Williams: Close Encounters, John Corigliano: Altered States, Danny Elfman: Edward Scissorhands, Anton Bruckner: Oscar and Lucinda, and John Williams : Empire of the Sun.

You don’t have to visit a movie theater or to an art gallery to draw this comparison either:

Two new venues are presenting the Berkshire Symphony in this series. For the first time, the audience can enjoy a performance at the ’62 Center at Williams College, instead of the traditional setting of Chapin Hall due to size constraints presented by the loss of the stage extension. Also for the first time, the orchestra is doing a second performance at the historic and fabled Colonial Theater in Pittsfield, MA. Tickets for the Colonial concert may be reserved at the ticket office in Pittsfield or by calling (413) 997-4444.

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.