|Symphony season premieres Sept. 30|
The Greater Grand Forks Symphony opens its 98th season, “New Worlds,” under the baton of Maestro James Hannon Saturday, Sept. 30, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 1, at 2 p.m. at the Empire Arts Center. Hannon makes his debut as the Symphony’s 11th music director and conductor following a two-year national search.
Hannon is the director of orchestral activities at Iowa State University, where he conducts the ISU Symphony Orchestra and teaches instrumental conducting. A native of Battle Creek, Mich., Hannon has degrees from Michigan State University, where he studied violin with I-Fu Wang and Lyman Bodman and string pedagogy with Judith Palac and from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville.
The major work for the evening is Dvorak’s New World Symphony. The Symphony No. 9, opus 95, "From the New World," was premiered in 1893 by the New York Philharmonic and remains one of the most popular symphonies in the modern repertory. The Czech composer wrote it during his visit to the United States from 1892 to 1895, and the lilting melodies reflect Dvorak’s love of American folk music and African-American spirituals which are woven into the four parts of the work.
The program also includes a new work by composer Joan Tower called "Made in America." The work has an interesting and unusual history. In 2001 an entrepreneurial group of smaller-budget orchestra leaders were searching for a way to commission a nationally renowned composer. To pool their resources, they formed a unique consortium which eventually grew to include 65 orchestras, including the Greater Grand Forks Symphony and at least one from each of the 50 states. "Made in America" is the result of their efforts: it is the largest known orchestra consortium, creating a national network through which each participating orchestra has access to resources that would never be available to an orchestra of its size on its own. A filmed interview with the composer discussing the new work and the composing process will be shown at the Empire 30 minutes prior to Saturday and Sunday’s performance.
Violinist John Gilbert will be the featured soloist for the evening, playing Sibelius’ Violin Concerto, one of the greatest concertos in the violin repertoire. This is the only major work for solo instrument and orchestra that the Finnish composer wrote. One noteworthy feature is an extended virtuosic cadenza for the soloist in the first movement. In fact, much of the violin writing is virtuosic, but even the most showy passages alternate with lyrical, melodic sections.
Gilbert is an active soloist, recitalist and chamber music collaborator. He regularly performs throughout the United States and recent seasons have included appearances as soloist in concerti of Brahms, Bruch, Mendelssohn, Sibelius, Kurt Weill, and Vivaldi, broadcasts on National Public Radio, and concerts throughout England, France, Iceland, Ireland, and Italy. In addition, he has presented master classes at the Royal Irish Academy of Music in Dublin, the Cork School of Music, and the Royal College of Music in London, England. Gilbert's principal studies were under the tutelage of Sally O'Reilly and Charles Castleman. He holds degrees from the University of Minnesota, the Yale University School of Music, and the Eastman School of Music.
Gilbert will arrive in Grand Forks several days in advance of the concert to conduct master classes and workshops for local students.
Tickets for the performance are available by calling 777-4090, or may be purchased at the door one hour prior to performance. General admission, $18; seniors, $16; students, $5; and children 12 and under are free. Further information is available at www.ggfso.org.
-- Greater Grand Forks Symphony.