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This preview has been provided by the North Carolina Symphony.
Leonard Bernstein and Aaron Copland defined American classical music in the 20th century – and they also shared a decades-long friendship unlike any other in the history of classical music. Meeting for the first time in 1937, when Copland was 37 years old and Bernstein was just 19, the two composers maintained correspondence for their entire lives and saw each other nearly every summer. Copland was a mentor to Bernstein, and Bernstein championed Copland's music.
On Thursday, November 21 in Wilmington, and Friday and Saturday, November 22 and 23 in Raleigh, the North Carolina Symphony will perform music by the two friends, along with works by their American contemporaries Samuel Barber and George Frederick McKay. Fast-rising German guest conductor Christian Reif will lead the Symphony in its three performances of iconic American music.
Headlining the program is Bernstein's popular Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, his musical telling the tragic tale of star-crossed lovers in a New York City slum in the 1950s. Bernstein arranged tunes from his beloved and Tony Award-winning musical into a lively and emotional symphonic suite. "The score of West Side Story was among the first music I fell in love with – and I was convinced to become a professional musician," says NCS double-bassist Bruce Ridge.
Copland is represented with his Symphony No. 2, the "Short Symphony," which he regarded as one of his personal favorite works. He composed this symphony between 1931 and 1933, shortly before he entered into his folksy "Americana" musical style. This symphony foreshadows that style, which Copland would debut the same year with Appalachian Spring. The Symphony No. 2 is so rhythmically challenging that conductors of both The Philadelphia Orchestra and Boston Symphony Orchestra backed out of their first planned performances, fearing that they would not have adequate rehearsal time.
NCS Concertmaster Brian Reagin will solo in McKay's Violin Concerto – a work he has a long history with, as he recorded it for a commercial album in 2005. McKay was a prolific composer and spent almost his entire musical career in Washington state. His goal was to incorporate the songs and dances of the West into the classical repertoire, evoking a "folk feeling." In addition, the influence of Erich Korngold – who was composing down the coast in Hollywood – is apparent in this romantic concerto.
The program opens with Barber's Overture to The School for Scandal, a reflection on Richard Brinsley Sheridan's madcap comedy. This overture helped to establish Barber as one of America's most prominent composers – a rank he still holds today, along with the greats Bernstein and Copland. For more information and tickets click here.
North Carolina Symphony
Bernstein & Copland
Thursday, November 21 at 7:30 pm
Cape Fear Community College
Friday & Saturday, November 22-23 at 8:00 pm
Meymandi Concert Hall, Woolner Stage
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
North Carolina Symphony
Christian Reif, conductor
Brian Reagin violin
Barber: Overture to The School for Scandal
McKay: Violin Concerto
Copland: Symphony No. 2 "Short Symphony"
Bernstein: Symphonic Dances from West Side Story
TICKETS start at $20
About the North Carolina Symphony
Founded in 1932, the North Carolina Symphony (NCS) is a vital and honored component of North Carolina's cultural life. Each year, the North Carolina Symphony's 300 concerts, education programs, and community engagement events are enjoyed by adults and schoolchildren in more than 90 North Carolina counties – in communities large and small, and in concert halls, auditoriums, gymnasiums, restaurants, clubs, and outdoor settings. The Symphony's full-time professional musicians perform under the artistic leadership of Music Director Grant Llewellyn.
NCS's state headquarters venue is the spectacular Meymandi Concert Hall at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Raleigh. The Symphony's service across the state includes series in Chapel Hill, Fayetteville, New Bern, Southern Pines, and Wilmington, as well as the Summerfest series at its summer home, the outdoor Koka Booth Amphitheatre in Cary. NCS brings some of the world's greatest talents to North Carolina and embraces home-state artists from classical musicians to bluegrass bands, creating live music experiences distinctive to North Carolina.
Committed to engaging students of all ages across North Carolina, NCS leads the most extensive education program of any symphony orchestra – serving nearly 70,000 students each year. In alignment with the curriculum set by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, the Symphony provides training and resources for teachers, sends small ensembles into classrooms, and presents full-orchestra Education Concerts that bring the fundamentals of music to life. Music Discovery for preschoolers combines music with storytelling, and at the middle and high school levels, students have opportunities to work directly with NCS artists and perform for NCS audiences.
NCS is dedicated to giving voice to new art, and has presented more than 50 U.S. or world premieres in its history. In 2017, NCS appeared at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., as one of four orchestras chosen for the inaugural year of SHIFT: A Festival of American Orchestras – an honor that recognized the Symphony's creative programming and innovative community partnerships.
The first state-supported symphony in the country, NCS performs under the auspices of the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. To learn more, visit ncsymphony.org.