Symphony orchestras across the country face difficult decisions when it comes to music programming. Safe showstoppers can guarantee ticket sales, but rarely performed pieces highlight and stretch musicians' abilities, as well as an audience's listening skills. The latest Classical Masterworks concert from the Colorado Springs Philharmonic aims to showcase the orchestra at its best in both regards.
Pictures At An Exhibition is about an imaginary tour around a museum. The 15-piece suite takes the listener on a journey through an array of images, from a bustling marketplace (the hasty "Limoges le March") to nutcrackers on misshapen legs (the eerie "Gnomus"), each piece separated from the next by a stately promenade.
Joseph Haydn's Symphony No. 104, from the London years, was the last symphony he ever wrote. This perfect example of classical symphonic form is what "Papa" Haydn (so named because he is the "father" of the classical symphony and string quartet) did best. Though it uses simplistic motifs, it is widely considered to be one of his more sophisticated works because of the refined musical wit he employed.
But the most ambitious piece on the program certainly is Samuel Barber's "Andromache's Farewell." Barber, a 20th-century American, was a truly modern composer who tempered his atonal experiments with a keen sense of lyricism. His best work pairs expression with experimentation.
The achingly beautiful and extraordinarily difficult "Andromache's Farewell" uses soprano voice (the inimitable and lovely Linda Weise) and orchestra (led by assistant conductor Thomas Wilson) to achieve a balance of tradition and modernity.
In its third season, the Philharmonic offers this genre- and time-crossing concert as a fine example of the breadth an orchestra can achieve.
-- Bettina Swigger
The Colorado Springs Philharmonic; Thomas Wilson, conducting, Linda Weise, soprano
Pikes Peak Center, 190 S. Cascade Ave.
Saturday, Nov. 5 at 8 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 6 at 2:30 p.m.
Tickets: $9-$50; call 520-SHOW (7469) or visit ticketswest.com.