Arts and Entertainment

Bainbridge Symphony Orchestra to present 'From the New World' | Director's View

Bainbridge Symphony director David Upham. - Courtesy photo
Bainbridge Symphony director David Upham.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Last year I read a very interesting book by Jack Sullivan entitled, “New World Symphonies: How American Culture Changed European Music.” What struck me about the book was the very premise that American music and culture had influenced Europe, because that contradicted everything I thought I knew about the evolution of American classical music. Certainly, I was aware of the impact of rock and roll and that jazz became popular in Europe with classical composers. But I was dumbfounded to hear that Ravel said he’d learned as much from Edgar Allen Poe as he had from any composer. Clearly, the view that America in the late 1800s was deficient in native culture and had to learn everything from Europe needed some correcting.

This was the genesis of the concerts the Bainbridge Symphony Orchestra and I will be presenting this month. The program will open with Charles Ives’ “The Unanswered Question,” written in 1904. More than 10 years before Stravinsky rocked Paris with his wild “Rite of Spring,” Ives was quietly creating even more radical music at his home in Connecticut. When Frederick Delius’s father sent him from England to Florida in the 1880s, the young composer became enchanted with spirituals, slave songs and American folk music. We will be performing Delius’s “Two Pieces for Small Orchestra.” In recognition of the great influence of jazz music, we will also perform George Gershwin’s overture to “Crazy For You.” The centerpiece of the program, however, will be Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No.9, subtitled “From the New World.” Dvořák was recruited by Jeanette Thurber to become director of The National Conservatory of Music in New York. During his time here, the composer set out to discover American music and incorporate it into his composition, much as he had done with the folk music of his native Bohemia. In writing his final symphony, he not only accomplished this goal, but also created one of the greatest masterpieces in the entire repertoire.

Bainbridge Symphony Orchestra presents “From the New World” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 17 and at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 18 (pre-concert chat 45 minutes ahead of each performance, at 6:45 p.m. Saturday and 2:15 p.m. Sunday.)

Tickets: $18 for adults and $15 for seniors, students, youth, military, and teachers. Info: (206) 842-8569 or www.bainbridgeperformingarts.org.

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