Simple, Yet Not: Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 7

The art of writing music and making notes blend into a seamless piece of wonder is beyond my talents. I don’t think I would ever call a symphony “simple.” The word has been used to describe Sergei Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 7, which the Utah Symphony will be performing this weekend.

This symphony was the final symphony written by Prokofiev in 1952 (Prokofiev died in 1953). It is often called the “Children’s Symphony” because of Prokofiev’s attempts to keep the music simple and because it was written for the Soviet Children’s Radio Division. He is well known for writing music for children including the score of Peter and the Wolf which the Utah Symphony will be performing in March 2015. There are many places where the notes are fun and simple. There are marches in the first movement and the final movement. And a reoccurring theme in both movements invoke Prokofiev’s fantasy and imagination, well suited for a children’s symphony.

Sergei Prokofiev

Sergei Prokofiev

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Going Beyond the Baton: A Conversation with Ignat Solzhenitsyn

Ignat Solzhenitsyn’s name is way more intimidating than he is. Ignat is a Starbucks-drinking, football-watching, dare I say it, All-American Boy, but definitely one who has not forgotten his Russian roots. Ginamarie, our marketing communications manager, and I (Traci) sat down with him today to talk about … well, everything. We had an excellent conversation that briefly touched on his performance this weekend. Our questions were with purpose: we wanted the scoop, we wanted the information that no one else knows, we wanted to know what dwells beyond the biography that you can find on his website.

Ignat Solzhenitsyn

Ignat Solzhenitsyn

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Pardon Our Dust: Abravanel Hall Plaza Construction

The plaza in front of Abravanel Hall is getting a much needed makeover this year. Most of the concrete and the fountain in the front will be removed to make way for new greenery, sidewalks and walkways. The new plans call for better lighting and sign fixtures as well as grey and white concrete with accents in warm tones including browns and gold.

Abravanel Hall Courtyard

Abravanel Hall Courtyard

Abravanel Hall Courtyard

Abravanel Hall Courtyard

This does mean that access to the plaza and east entrance to the lobby will be cut off until Spring 2015. A safety fence will stretch along South Temple, West Temple and the lawn, removing access through the front doors. Fortunately, there’s more than one way to enter Abravanel Hall. There are three entrances to the lobby of Abravanel Hall. To enter directly into the lobby and bypass the congestion at the ticket office, go up the stairs near the ticket office and enter through the doors on the lobby’s west side. Another option is the main entrance to the ticket office, which can be found on the north side, with access from South Temple. If you already have your tickets and want to avoid the stairs by taking the elevator, we recommend going down the alley on the west side of the building entering through the west doors. The UTA Temple Square Trax stop is located right across from Abravanel Hall and there is a crosswalk to the west that will take you directly to the entrances which will be open. If you have difficulties walking or navigating, we suggest that you park near the Salt Palace or at the Plaza Hotel.

 

Abravanel Hall Entry Map

Abravanel Hall Entry Map during Construction

The plaza will be closed through Spring 2015, so please plan your trips accordingly.

If you have any problems with getting into Abravanel Hall, call the ticket office for detailed descriptions on perfect parking areas and entering the Hall during construction.

Abravanel Memories: Bonnie Mangold

Gustav Mahler

Gustav Mahler

This is the first post in our Mahler Memories Series, which will provide highlights from oral histories of Utah Symphony musicians who played under Maestro Maurice Abravanel. During interviews conducted during the 2014-15 season, these musicians recalled their days making music with Maestro Abravanel , especially during the period of recording the Mahler symphonies. The complete oral histories will be archived in the McKay Music Library in the school of Music at the University of Utah.

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Zoos, Arts, and Parks are Good Things

Salt Lake County has a wide-ranging selection of popular activities and adventures from roughing it on an overnight backpacking trip through the forest to dressing up for a night at the symphony. Children and families can explore Utah’s Hogle Zoo, picnic at Utah’s city parks, and ride bikes along the county’s trails and parkways. This level of diversity exists because it is what the community of Salt Lake County wants, and there has been no bigger proof of that than the two-time voter approval of of the Zoo, Arts, and Parks (ZAP) program. The approval of this program provides support to more than 160 arts, cultural, and zoological organizations, 17 recreation centers, and 13 parks and trails.

ZAP helps fund cultural activities for over 7 million people and helps give free admission to ZAP funded organizations. This money goes directly to funding organizations like Ballet West, the Utah Arts Festival, This is the Place Heritage Park, The Tracy Aviary, Utah Symphony | Utah Opera, and many more. Here, at Utah Symphony | Utah Opera, we are very grateful for the community’s express interest in supporting cultural activities and organizations throughout the county.

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Romanticism Part II

Musical Romanticism

The music of the nineteenth century reflects many of the traits of literary Romanticism. Music aestheticians, as well as the noted philosophers Arthur Schopenhauer and Friedrich Nietzsche, argued over the exact nature of musical “content” and whether music may contain emotion; nevertheless, most listeners hear a directness of emotional expression in Romantic music. This results from the emphasis composers placed on gradations in volume, variety in instrumental tone color, and expansion of the harmonic palette through the increased use of both dissonance and chromaticism.  Extreme contrasts within these elements result in constant fluctuation in mood, which the liberties in tempo caused by the use of rubato only serve to heighten.

In order to accommodate the changes in affect typical of Romantic style, composers found themselves penning longer compositions.  While a complete symphony by Mozart or Haydn averages approximately twenty minutes in length, Beethoven reaches around thirty minutes beginning with his “Eroica” Symphony of 1803 (and his Ninth Symphony of 1822-24 extends to nearly one hour).  After all, the stereotypical Beethoven affective trajectory traces a path from tragedy, through struggle, to victory within a single movement, and each of these sentiments warrants extended musical presentation so that the listener has adequate time to perceive it.  And as later composers explored other, unique emotional journeys in their works, pieces grew to even greater lengths.  By the end of the century, the symphonies of writers like Bruckner and Mahler, for example, usually run well over an hour.

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Romanticism Part I

Historical Background and Literary Romanticism

“Liberty in Art, liberty in Society, behold the double end towards which consistent and logical minds should tend; behold the double banner that rallies the intelligence.”

Victor Hugo penned these words in the preface to his 1830 play Hernani, and with them, he suggests that Romantic literature reflects the cultural and political turmoil nineteenth-century Europe was experiencing.  The storming of the Bastille in 1789 had heralded major political change for the continent.  The French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars initiated a series of revolutionary conflicts—including additional pan-European uprisings in 1830 and 1848—that would ultimately lead to the dissolution of many hereditary monarchies.  As more democratic forms of government emerged to take their place, international hostilities like the Crimean War (1853-56) weakened the spheres of influence granted to France, Austria, Britain, and Russia following the defeat of Napoleon in 1815. These shifts in the balance of power, combined with the nascent nationalist sentiment prompted by the Napoleonic Wars, effected a reconfiguration of the continent’s map: Greece (1821-32), Italy (1848-66), and Hungary (1848) took up arms against their foreign oppressors in hopes of securing independence, while Prussia used wars against Austria (1866) and France (1870) to achieve its vision of a unified Germany(1871).

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Romantics Terminology

Chromaticism, Chromatic
Using notes outside the selected major or minor scale/key. For example, the C-major scale uses the pitches C, D, E, F, G, A, and. B If a composer temporarily choses the notes C sharp, G flat, B flat, etc. while writing in the key of C major, this represents chromaticism.

Knaben Wunderhorn, Des (The Boy’s Magic Horn)
A collection of German folk poetry brought together by Achim von Arnim and Clemens Brentano and published in three volumes between 1805 and 1808. As editors, however, Arnim and Bretano made significant alterations to the poems; they therefore no long constitute “authentic” folk materials.

The more than 700 texts in the collection inspired many composers, with Schumann, Mendelssohn, Brahms, R. Strauss, and most notably Mahler setting individual poems as songs. Mahler, in turn, embedded these songs in his Second through Fourth Symphonies, as well as setting further Wunderhorn texts in their vocal movements.

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7 Teenagers who are Making Their Dreams Come True

Congratulations to the seven soloists who have been selected to perform in the 55th Annual Salute to Youth concert next week on September 30! One of our core missions at Utah Symphony | Utah Opera is to reach out to the community and to students. With this goal in mind, it brings us a wealth of joy to see such talented musicians vie for the starring spots in this concert

Associate Conductor Vladimir Kulenovic, jury member during the selection process and conductor for the concert, said, “It is one of the greatest and most rewarding experiences as a conductor to give back to the next generation of aspiring soloists. We have enormous talent here in Utah and we are very proud to cultivate it to the highest level.”

These students worked hard to hone their skills and come out on top, and the selection process was just as difficult for us. This year, the seven winners who will be performing at the Salute to Youth concert are Shenae Anderson, Sanne Christensen, Rebecca Epperson, Karen Ferry, Maggie Ivory, Michael Marsden, and Caroline Richards.

Salute to Youth Finalists

Salute to Youth Finalists: (Back row L-R) Maggie, Rebecca, Sanne, Shenae (Front row L-R) Karen, Michael, Caroline

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Something’s Amiss at Abravanel Hall

This weekend’s symphony performance is quite strange. The second half, after the intermission, will be familiar with the symphony playing as usual and pianist Yefim Bronfman performing Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2. But it’s the first half that may have you thinking that something is amiss.

The stage will appear normal, with at least 60 chairs set up on stage at Abravanel Hall.

stage set up

Stage set up at Abravanel Hall

But the first clue that something is up will be when the musicians take their seats, and you don’t see any violins, violas, cellos or bass, and instead you’ll only see flutes, trumpets, trombones, tubas, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, and horns.

Don’t worry. It’s all planned and the string players aren’t just all really late.

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