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This preview is made possible by a publicity exchange between CVNC and the Raleigh Symphony Orchestra.*
Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein met in 1937 when Bernstein was 19, and were close friends and collaborators for many years after. Copland was 18 years older than Bernstein, and already established in his career when the two became friends. He encouraged and mentored Bernstein when he was a student at Harvard, and when he two maintained a life-long friendship. Letters between the two men displayed such a high level of personal trust and mutual musical admiration, and coincidentally enough, they died only two months apart.
Dr. Jim Waddelow, Artistic Director of the Raleigh Symphony Orchestra, says of this program, "I have wanted to present a concert about the relationships we have as musicians for some time," and now the orchestra is seizing the opportunity. Copland's "John Henry" and "Quiet City" will both be performed, as well as Three Dance Episodes from Bernstein's On the Town. "If you close your eyes," notes Dr. Waddelow, "there is just a hint of Copland’s style of writing in the 'Lonely Town' movement of On the Town."
However, "Dear Friends" is a theme that extends beyond the programmed works; in fact, there are four close friendships the concert will give homage.
Premiering in full orchestration for the first time, Bill Robinson's Violin Concerto No. 2, was composed for his friend Eric Pritchard of the Ciompi Quartet. Many of Robinson's works are influenced by his relationships, spirituality, and the many interesting stories he has to tell. Says Robinson, "I have had the pleasure of making music with violinist Eric Pritchard since 2006. In 2009, Eric performed the first edition of Violin Concerto No. 1, Ananda Concerto, with the Raleigh Civic Chamber Orchestra... I started a second violin concerto for Eric after finishing my Cello Concerto for Bonnie Thron." This concerto serves as a "companion piece" to the Cello Concerto."
Robinson is himself a minor Raleigh institution and impressive man-of-all-trades; he has written ten solo violin or viola sonatas, sonatas for various other instruments, a variety of chamber works, eight concertos for several kinds and combinations of instruments and orchestra, full orchestral pieces, two large works for chorus and orchestra, and pieces for concert band. After arriving in Raleigh in 2001, Robinson earned a PhD in physics and served on the faculty at NCSU, in addition to having studied music at Eastman and the University of North Texas.
Dr. Waddelow also has the pleasure of calling Robinson a friend. "We have had many lunches over the years with the best intentions of discussing the music we were about to program, but Bill is a wonderful storyteller and often these conversations would be all over the map before we circled back to the music," says Waddelow. "It hardly seemed like work, and [that] is something I have always liked about our musical partnership."
Another classic work on the program will be "Che faro senza mi Euridice" from Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice. The mezzo-soprano soloist will be Rachel Stenbuck, Meredith College graduate (and now instructor), and the first soloist for Dr. Waddelow to conduct upon his arrival to Raleigh 15 years ago! They have collaborated on many projects together and this marks her third performance with the Raleigh Symphony Orchestra.
While there are indeed many more friendships present within the orchestra (inevitably, since the orchestra has been going strong for 43 years!), the parallels between composer and performer relationships are fun to explore and celebrate.
"Dear Friends" will take place at Meredith College's Jones Auditorium on Saturday, March 11, at 7:00pm. Tickets, directions, and more information are available at www.raleighsymphony.org.
*Andrea McKerlie Luke serves as the Executive Director of both CVNC and the Raleigh Symphony Orchestra.