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To Stravinsky and Beyond

May 02, 2008

RPO’s Symphony 101 Closes Season with Three Masters of the 20th Century

Rochester, NY –The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra closes its Symphony 101 series of this season with music from three of the greatest composers of the 20th century on Friday, May 23 at 7:30 p.m. at the Performance Hall at Hochstein, and Sunday, May 25 at 2 p.m. in the Hale Auditorium, Roberts Cultural Life Center at Roberts Wesleyan College. Stravinsky’s Suite from The Firebird, Bartók’s remarkable The Miraculous Mandarin and Charles Ives’ The Unanswered Question will provide a dramatic and thought-provoking concert, illuminated by insightful discussion by Maestro Seaman. 

The Firebird, the first of Stravinsky’s three dynamic ballets, is based on an old Russian folk tale of a magical, glowing bird, paralleling the mythological Phoenix as a symbol of rebirth.  Prince Ivan, the main character, captures the Firebird, who promises to help the prince in exchange for its freedom.  Four versions of this lush, rhythmically vibrant piece exist; the most widely known 1919 version will be performed by the RPO in this concert.

Another composition for ballet, The Miraculous Mandarin was the last of Bartók’s works for this form. The story was a controversial one: a girl forced by thugs to stand in a window, lures men inside to be robbed. The last of her three victims is a wealthy mandarin.  The thugs rob the mandarin and attempt to kill him, but he will not die; his eyes are transfixed by the girl’s dance.  When he finally embraces her, he falls lifeless to the ground.  The symmetry of the story’s structure plays out in the three encounters, as the music for each seduction begins with complete silence and builds to a cymbal-crashing climax.

In 1906, American composer Charles Ives originally wrote The Unanswered Question as a transcendental exploration of the mystery of creation.  Revising it in 1932, Ives himself described the work as a “cosmic landscape.”  The strings begin, representing “The Silences of the Druids—Who Know, See and Hear Nothing,” the trumpet asks “The Perennial Question of Existence,” and the woodwinds seek “The Invisible Answer.”  In the end, the question hangs in the air as the strings fade away. 

The 2007-08 Symphony 101 Series focused on the motivations, everyday lives and masterpieces of composers from Bach to the present day.  Music Director Seaman leads these engaging and innovative concerts that feature discussion, musical examples, selections from significant works and complete pieces.  Following each concert, Mr. Seaman takes questions from the audience. 

General admission tickets for these performances are $22, available online 24/7 at www.rpo.org, by phone (454-2100) in person from the RPO Box Office and at area Wegmans.  A convenience fee may apply.  RPO Box Office hours are Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (non-concert Saturdays, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.). 

The Symphony 101 Series is sponsored by PAETEC Communications, Inc. Additional support for this series is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts. RPO performances are made possible in part with grants from the National Endowment for the Arts; the New York State Council on the Arts, a State Agency; the State of New York; Monroe County; and the City of Rochester.  Christopher Seaman’s appearance is made possible by Friends of Christopher.

Celebrating its 85th season in 2007-08, the RPO inspires and enriches the community through the art of music.  The Orchestra is passionately dedicated to outstanding musical performance at the highest artistic levels, and has a unique tradition of musical versatility, commitment to music education in the broadest sense and a deep and enduring engagement with the community.  The RPO has been honored with the New York State Governor’s Arts Award and two recent ASCAP awards for adventurous programming.

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