Guest conductor Christopher Rountree leads orchestra and soloists
La Jolla, Calif. (April 10, 2015) — The La Jolla Symphony & Chorus (LJS&C) presents the fifth concert of its 60th anniversary season, themed The Nature of Things. Guest conductor Christopher Rountree, artistic director and conductor of wild Up, an adventurous chamber group that blends new music, classical repertoire, performance art, and pop, leads a unique American program: Leonard Bernstein’s Symphony No. 1 “Jeremiah”; the world premiere of Yeung-ping Chen’s The Moon in La Jolla, this year’s Thomas Nee Commission; and Charles Ives’ Symphony No. 2. Mezzo-soprano Heather Johnson solos in the Bernstein.
Bernstein’s dramatic First Symphony (1944) was written while he was still in his twenties, and it was voted outstanding new classical work its debut year by the New York Music Critics Circle. Written in three movements – the first two purely instrumental -- Bernstein drew his text for the last movement from the Book of Lamentations, Chapters 1, 4, and 5. Lamentations, attributed to the prophet Jeremiah, agonizes over the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 BC by the forces of Nebuchadnezzar, questions whether God has turned against the Jews, and wonders how they might re-establish a relationship. Like Beethoven’s Ninth and Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony, the finale’s text gives meaning to the entire symphonic journey. Heather Johnson, mezzo-soprano, solos in her debut with the orchestra.
This year’s Thomas Nee Commission recipient Yeung-ping Chen has composed a truly twenty-first century work. Billed as a tele-concerto, the orchestra and conductor will be in Mandeville Auditorium and soloist Scott Paulson, on carillon, will be at the Geisel Library, “appearing” with the orchestra via the Internet. Hong Kong-born Chen based The Moon in La Jolla on a poem by fellow countryman and UCSD alumnus Leung Ping-kwan. Written in the late 1970s after the poet had just moved to La Jolla, it depicts the nostalgia the poet experienced in a foreign place and raises questions about translating poetic images and personal emotions from one language to another. “These are the same questions that I have been wanting to answer in my own work,” says Chen, who has been awarded several scholarships, grants, and prizes over the course of his composing career. Chen’s research at UCSD, where he is a graduate student in music composition, focuses on telematic musical composition, performative strategies for electro-acoustic music, and hyper-transcriptional compositions.
Charles Ives’ popular Symphony No. 2, written between 1897 and 1901 (with revisions through 1909), fuses the great European symphony form with popular American tunes. He built the symphony on the materials of American musical life at the turn of the 20th century, both folk-music and art-music, yet Europe makes itself firmly felt as listeners will hear quotations from Beethoven, Brahms, Dvořák, Wagner, and others. As a young man, Ives recognized it would be difficult to make a career in music. He went into the insurance business, eventually becoming a multi-millionaire, and continued composing on the side. Perhaps as a result of his career choice, Ives could not find anyone interested in performing this music, so it sat on his shelf for half a century before Leonard Bernstein led the premiere with the New York Philharmonic in 1951. It was received with rapturous applause.
The performances take place May 2-3, 2015 in Mandeville Auditorium at UCSD. Concert times are 7:30 p.m. on Saturday and 2:00 p.m. on Sunday. Individual tickets are $29 general, $27 senior, and $15 student. Group discounts are available. Parking is free. A pre-concert lecture is offered one hour prior to concert times given by the conductor. To purchase tickets or for more information, call the LJS&C office at (858) 534-4637.
The La Jolla Symphony & Chorus San Diego’s oldest and largest community orchestra and chorus, is a non-profit musical performing group dedicated to inspiring San Diego with the joy of music. Its 110-person orchestra and 130-person chorus perform groundbreaking orchestral and choral music along with traditional favorites from the classical repertoire. During the 60th season, maestro Steven Schick shares the podium with David Chase, LJS&C choral director, performing works by Beethoven, Berlioz, Bernstein, Ives, Mahler, Nielsen, Ung, and more.