Higdon blue cathedral*
Copland Appalachian Spring*
Respighi The Fountains of Rome
Bates Anthology of Fantastic Zoology*
*Indicates SPAC Premiere
August 8 will feature three SPAC premieres: blue cathedral, an orchestral composition by the American composer Jennifer Higdon and one of the composer’s most performed works; the orchestral suite of Copland’s Appalachian Spring, the Pulitzer Prize-winning depiction of the American idyll, which also popularized the Shaker folk song “Simple Gifts”; and Mason Bates’ Anthology of Fantastic Zoology, titled after mythical creatures from the book of the same name by Jorge Luis Borges. The work exploits the virtuosity of the Orchestra to evoke what the composer calls a “psychedelic bestiary.”
Fountains of Rome, the piece that eventually put Respighi on the international map, celebrates four of the city’s famous fountains as a highlight of this aquatic-themed program.
- Although he knew the ballet would deal with pioneering American themes, Copland readily admitted that the pastoral beauty of Appalachia wasn’t on his mind when he wrote the score for Appalachian Spring. Interestingly, the piece received its name from the choreographer of the ballet, Martha Graham, after Copland had written much of the score.
- Blue Cathedral was written by Jennifer Higdon, one of the most prominent female composers of our time, in memory of her younger brother. In tribute to her brother, Higdon features solos for the clarinet (the instrument her brother played) and the flute (the instrument she plays). At the end of the work, the two instruments continue their dialogue, but the flute drops out and the clarinet continues on in an upward progressing journey.
- Arturo Toscanini was set to conduct the original premiere of The Fountains of Rome in Rome in 1916, but suddenly cancelled after he was booed off of stage when he included music from German composer Richard Wagner at a time when German forces were killing Italians in Padua. Consequently, The Fountains of Rome didn’t premiere until 1917, and, lacking the intensity and charisma of its original composer, flopped. Only several months later, in Milan, did Toscanini direct La Scala orchestra in a performance that skyrocketed the composer to prominence.
Read more here:
- “Appalachian Spring” by Aaron Copland: https://www.npr.org/programs/specials/milestones/991027.motm.apspring.html
- PROGRAM NOTES: “blue cathedral: http://www.jenniferhigdon.com/pdf/program-notes/blue-cathedral.pdf
- OTTORINO RESPIGHI, FONTANE DI ROMA (THE FOUNTAINS OF ROME): http://americansymphony.org/fontane-di-roma-the-fountains-of-rome-1914-16/