Innovation in the field of music leads to deeper, ever more beautiful representations of life through music.
The Dayton Philharmonic opens the evening’s performance with the contemporary piece Supermaximum, written by Portland, Oregon, violist and composer Kenji Bunch. Known for his “genre-defying chamber works,” Bunch premiered this piece in Brooklyn in 2011. The title Supermaximum is reminiscent of the term used in prisons, representing the strictest level of incarceration. The rhythm and spirit of the piece are inspired by the Southern chain gangs of the Depression era. The African American men in these chain gangs coordinated their work and linked their movement with song. In their time of strife and exhaustion, these men looked to art for both spiritual and physical survival. Supermaximum begins quietly with the sound of axes, hammers, and chain-walking. That work rhythm continues and moves beneath the melody, leading listeners past the toils of imprisonment and life . . . toward hope. Bunch continues in that vein with this historically echoed, yet movingly joyous orchestral work.
Supermaximum is followed by Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3. This piece, written in 1775, is the third of five violin concertos that Wolfgang Amadeus wrote that year. The violin solo in this composition breaks new ground as it imitates the style of an Italian operatic vocal solo. Guest soloist Yevgeny Kutik will be joining the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra for this performance. Kutik debuted in 2003, winning first place in the Boston Symphony Orchestra Young Artists Competition. The artist is known for his technical precision and virtuosity and has performed with symphony orchestras around the world. Kutik has released two albums, Songs of Defiance and Music from the Suitcase: A Collection of Russian Miniatures.
The evening’s program climaxes with Claude Debussy’s Images for orchestra. This three-movement work sets out to capture the essence of England (Gigues), Spain (Ibéria), and France (Rondes de printemps). As a composer, Debussy took inspiration from visual artists, such as the Impressionists, as well as the literati of the time, especially the French symbolist poets Charles Baudelaire and Paul Verlaine and American writer Edgar Allan Poe. Now credited for revitalizing French music during the late 1890s and early 1900s, during his lifetime he was criticized for his use of new harmonies and the “radical” music that ensued. It was those new and innovative tones in his music, however, that allowed Debussy to paint his musical pictures. That said, he did not look favorably upon those who consistently referred to his music as “impressionistic.” Debussy thought the term was used indiscriminately and wasn’t true to what he was actually setting out to accomplish, which was creating a reality.
Images begins with Gigues, a jig. The tone and tempo, however, are not what a listener would consider to be a sprightly dance. Instead, the piece reflects on “The Streets,” a poem by Paul Verlaine, which is anything but sprightly: “So skilfully would she proceed To make a lover's bare heart bleed, That it was beautiful indeed! Let's dance the jig!” And so the poem continues, the narrator’s heart broken and Debussy’s tone following suit. The movement has none of the typical lighthearted rhythm or tempo; instead, the music “wants” to quicken but cannot, alas, “dance the jig!” Images moves next to Ibéria, perhaps the best-known piece from the work. This movement is divided into three parts, describing Streets and Roadsides, Perfumed Darkness, and The Morning of a Festival. Images concludes with images of France in Rondes de printemps (Dances of Spring). The final movement evokes May Day and the celebratory mood of the season. In his music, Debussy sought to explore the “relationship between Nature and Imagination.” This master work accomplishes that, giving the imagination of the audience a front-row seat to the essence of England, of Spain, and of France.
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