Resounding with the Thrill of Victory
Aaron Copland, perhaps America’s most beloved composer, once noted, “You compose because you want to somehow summarize in some permanent form your most basic feelings about being alive, to set down some sort of permanent statement about the way it feels to live now, today.”
Throughout his long life, this son of Jewish immigrants composed some of the most iconic American classical music. Through scores like El Salón México, the ballets Rodeo, Billy the Kid and Appalachian Spring, and film music for Of Mice and Men and Our Town, Copland was able to paint a portrait in sound of life in 20th century America. His goal was to reach average Americans with his music, to represent their struggles and their experiences. And reach us he did. Thirty-three years after his death, today Copland’s music remains extraordinarily popular with audiences, who bask in the grandeur and cherish the tenderness of music that epitomizes the ideal of America.
In 1942, Copland was asked to compose a work in response to the United States’ entry into World War II. He responded with Fanfare for the Common Man, an iconic score that has been utilized countless times as ceremonial music in both live performances and in television and film productions. The work was so popular that Copland “borrowed” it to feature in the last movement of his Third Symphony, where it serves as the glorious finale to a piece that is frequently cited as the greatest American symphony ever written.
That massive work forms the heart of Sarasota Orchestra’s fifth Masterworks program this concert season, performed on February 25 and 26 at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall. The concert also includes Stravinsky’s extraordinary Violin Concerto, featuring American violinist Stefan Jackiw. Jackiw’s performances with major orchestras worldwide have generated tremendous buzz, and The Washington Post declared him to possess “talent that’s off the scale.” The Stravinsky Concerto is an absolutely charming neo-classical work, featuring virtuoso writing for both soloist and orchestra. The piece represented a victory of sorts for Stravinsky as well since he was initially reluctant to compose it, thinking he didn’t understand the violin well enough. That lack of familiarity turned out to be a plus, as he was free to compose without unconsciously worrying about how difficult it might be to play. One thing is for sure, it won’t be a problem for Jackiw, who is by all accounts thrilling to hear!
The concert opens with a new work by young American composer Jessica Hunt. Climb was inspired by Hunt’s experience living with a disability and chronic illness. Having read Beethoven’s letters in which he lamented his increasing deafness, she recognized the universal experience of anyone “living with any invisible illness or obstacle.” The title Climb refers specifically to Hunt’s difficulty in navigating stairs. “Some of us cannot simply walk up a flight of stairs,” she admits. “Instead, we must climb.”
As an added-bonus experience, Sarasota Orchestra is also offering the second installment in its “Guided Tour” series on February 24. These new programs offer the audience the opportunity to get “up close and personal” with the music as the Orchestra, conductor, and soloist join forces for a 75-minute, no-intermission exploration of highlights from the full Masterworks program. Jackiw, Hunt, and guest conductor Kensho Watanabe will all be on hand to speak directly about the music, and the Orchestra will play extended excerpts from the full program. It’s a fantastic opportunity to go “inside” the minds of the composers, as well as the musicians, as they talk about the music’s inspiration and share their favorite moments. The first Guided Tour program a few weeks back was a smashing success, with both new and seasoned audience members grateful for the experience.
If you are in search of an uplifting and inspiring way to spend an afternoon or evening, the weekend of February 24-26 offers a chance to revel in extraordinary music and even get to know the musicians on stage. Sarasota Orchestra invites you to “come as you are, leave different”—and with this program, you most certainly will!
To learn more and purchase tickets to Masterworks: Copland and Stravinsky or A Guided Tour: Copland and Stravinsky, visit Sarasota Orchestra’s website or call the Box Office at 941-953-3434. All programs and featured artists are subject to change.
About the Author: Betsy Hudson Traba has performed with Sarasota Orchestra as Principal Flutist since 1993.