Bethlehem Press

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CONTRIBUTED IMAGE CONTRIBUTED IMAGE "Daphnis and Chloe," François Gérard (circa 1824, oil on canvas, Detroit Institute of Arts). Allentown Symphony Orchestra's 8 p.m. Feb. 9 and 3 p.m. Feb. 10 concerts in Miller Symphony Hall, Allentown, feature Suite No. 2 from the ballet, "Daphnis and Chloe," by Maurice Ravel.

The colors of love

Wednesday, January 30, 2013 by DIANE WITTRY Special to The Press in Focus

Allentown Symphony Orchestra concerts painting from a palette of romantic music

An orchestra is an amazing ensemble composed of so many wonderful instruments. When put together, the sounds that they produce can be absolutely stunning.

French composer Maurice Ravel was a master at creating new sounds for the orchestra. In his ballet "Daphnis and Chloe," he uses a very large orchestra and writes in such a way that the music just cascades around us. He even uses a large chorus as an instrumental sound, where all the members of the chorus sing on the syllable "Ah" and the voices meld into the orchestra, creating yet another color for our ears to enjoy.

Ravel's style of writing was so successful and engaging that many composers today copy his methods of orchestration. An example that comes immediately to my mind is the music that was written for the television show "Fantasy Island." If you enjoyed listening to that music, you will love the colorful and exciting music from "Daphnis and Chloe."

As befitting the lush and romantic sounds, and in time for Valentine's Day, the theme for the first Allentown Symphony Orchestra concerts of the new year is "Modern Romance."

At 8 p.m. Feb. 9 and 3 p.m. Feb. 10, the Symphony will feature four wonderfully colorful compositions, including Suite No. 2 from "Daphnis and Chloe" by Maurice Ravel. The chorus part will be performed by the Muhlenberg College Choir, prepared by their Director Michael Schnack.

The original, "Daphnis and Chloe," was written by second-century Greek novelist Longus. The story inspired the 1987 movie, "The Princess Bride."

During the Symphony's concerts, the chorus will also participate in singing the "Pavanne" by Gabriel Faure. Most people know this piece as simply a beautiful work for orchestra, but after the premiere, Faure, went back and added an optional chorus part. This additional vocal color once again makes the piece even more special and moving for the listener.

In keeping with our theme of "colorful music," we will also perform the Pennsylvania premiere of Robert Aldridge's new Clarinet Concerto, which was premiered in New York by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and then performed again by the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. The piece was written for David Singer, Principal Clarinet of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. Singer will travel to the Lehigh Valley to perform the piece with the Allentown Symphony Orchestra.

Aldridge won a Grammy Award last year as best classical composer for his opera "Elmer Gantry." He is a rising star and his Clarinet Concerto incorporates similar compositional textures and orchestral colors as those used by Ravel, as well as utilizing aspects of Jewish Klezmer folk music. It is not often that we are able to feature a clarinet player with the Symphony, especially one playing such an interesting and exciting new piece. I predict that this piece will become a standard of the concert repertoire.

The concert opens with "Estancia," Opus 8a, an exciting composition by Argentinean composer Albert Ginastera. The suite is from his best-known work composed for the ballet "Estancia," which depicts life on a cattle ranch in Argentina. It's the story of a boy from the city who meets a cowgirl from the country. He proves himself to her, and they fall in love. The piece, written in 1943, has a storyline that is quite similar to that of Aaron Copland's "Rodeo," which premiered a year later.

The piece is full of wonderful Latin dance rhythms and overflows with interesting percussion sounds. In fact, the percussion section will dominate the stage in the pieces by Ginatera and Ravel because both composers used eight percussion players. We will feature all the standard percussion instruments like timpani, cymbals, bass drum, snare drum and triangle, but then we add more interesting instruments like claves, castanets, xylophone and a variety of drums.

The last movement of Ginastera's work, the "Malambo," is particularly exciting for both the orchestra and the audience. It is a dance for the men where they compete to show each other up. You really feel like you are at a dance party of very macho ranch hands in South American.

This concert features wonderful love stories and melodies framed in a beautiful palette of orchestral sound. The dance rhythms will make you want to tap your feet and the virtuosity of the instrumentalists on the stage will engage your full attention. The music is some of my favorites and I am excited to be bringing this concert to the Lehigh Valley.

Diane Wittry is Music Director and Conductor of the Allentown Symphony Orchestra and Artistic Director (U.S.A.) of the International Cultural Exchange Program with the Sarajevo Philharmonic, Bosnia.

Ticket information for concerts at Miller Symphony Hall: Box Office, 23 N. Sixth St., Allentown; 610-432-6715, AllentownSymphony.org