In September, the University of Tennessee Symphony Orchestra opened its 2014-15 season with a concert titled “España!”, an event I previewed briefly in an issue of Metro Pulse. At the time, I received very little information on the concert from Maestro James Fellenbaum, who usually overwhelms me with material and insights about his programs. I took this to mean that perhaps this year’s orchestra might not be up to the task, and that he wished to squash any excessive expectations. As it turned out, the exact opposite was true and I couldn’t have been more wrong. “España!” was the most well-played and accomplished, not to mention entertaining, performance by the UT Symphony Orchestra that I have ever had the pleasure of hearing.
Although I had intended on writing a review of the performance in Classical Café for Metro Pulse, circumstances turned my attention elsewhere and it never happened. So, along with my apologies for the oversight, I want to strongly recommend the UT Symphony Orchestra and their October 26 program this weekend entitled “Haydn”. Fellenbaum’s programming includes two works: Franz Joseph Haydn’s last symphony, his Symphony No. 104 in D Major (somewhat inappropriately nicknamed “London”) and Johannes Brahms’ Variations on a Theme by Haydn, Op. 56.
Unlike Mozart “the freelancer” ( his younger contemporary by 24 years), Haydn worked for court employers for almost his entire career. On the death in 1790 of his employer, Prince Nikolaus Esterházy, the then 58 year-old Haydn traveled to England at the request of impresario Johann Peter Salomon and stayed until June of 1792. During this time he composed six symphonies which were performed between March and June of 1791. Haydn returned to Vienna for two years, but ventured back to London in 1794, staying until August 1795. During this second visit, he offered up six more symphonies for London audiences—the No. 104 was the last of these, and the last symphony Haydn composed. Even though it was merely one of twelve that Haydn composed for London performances, the nickname “London” has stuck to this one.
Brahms’ inspiration for Variations on a Theme by Haydn came from a supposedly Haydn manuscript of a divertimento for two oboes, two horns, three bassoons, and “serpent” titled Divertimento mit dem Chorale St. Antoni. Oddly, scholars have never actually agreed whether or not the piece was actually by Haydn, but Brahms proceeded on that assumption. In this marvelous work, the main theme is followed by eight variations.
UT Symphony Orchestra, conductor James Fellenbaum
Sunday, October 26
7:30 p.m. James R. Cox Auditorium, UT Campus