University of Tennessee Symphony Orchestra: “Viva l’Italia!”
Conductor: James Fellenbaum
Respighi: Fountains of Rome
Albinoni: Adagio in G minor
Tchaikovsky: Capriccio Italien
4:00 PM, Sunday, September 24, James R. Cox Auditorium, UT Campus
One of the joys of following the University of Tennessee Symphony Orchestra over the years has been watching the ever-changing combinations and permutations of student talent advancing the ensemble in unexpected ways. Director of Orchestras and UTSO conductor James Fellenbaum believes this season will most certainly be one to follow with excitement.
“My choice of programming this year,” Fellenbaum explains, “is based largely on the improvement of the orchestra’s playing from last year. We have many talented students returning, and have some new talent joining us, which adds up to a more advanced and improved orchestra this year. The brass, in particular— some of whom are playing on the Michael Schachter commission with the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra—are VERY strong this year, which allowed me to program Fountains. They’re really doing a superb job. But, in all, the whole orchestra is improved and playing at a higher level every section.”
The orchestra will open its 2017-18 season this Sunday afternoon with a concert entitled “Viva l’Italia!,” a program of three works with Italy as a binding thread. The featured work is Fountains of Rome by Ottorino Respighi, one of three symphonic poems (along with Pines of Rome and Roman Festivals) the composer wrote on a Roman theme over an eleven-year period. The work is in four sections, each dripping with instrumental color, representing four fountains at different times of day: 1) the Fountain of Valle Giulia at dawn, 2) the Triton Fountain in the morning, 3) the Fountain of Trevi at midday, and 4) the Villa Medici Fountain at sunset.
Fellenbaum will also include Tchaikovsky’s Capriccio Italien, a work inspired by time spent by the composer in Rome in 1880 recovering from several personal travails. The work is an infectious collection of themes based on folk songs he encountered while in Rome, plus bright colors thanks to music “some of which I have heard in the streets…”
The concert is rounded out by the popular Albinoni Adagio in G minor. Of course, there is musicological controversy surrounding the one movement work, namely that it was “attributed to Albinoni” by historian Remo Giazotto, who claimed to have found the theme fragment after World War II in the Dresden State Library. Since Giazotto never produced the fragment and no record of its existence was ever found, scholars have concluded that the Adagio was, in fact, the work of Giazotto, possibly using Albinoni’s name for credibility. Whether or not there was an actual source of inspiration remains conjecture. Still, the work has a Baroque-like enchanting quality that makes it extremely satisfying for listeners.
“So…” Fellenbaum concludes, “a piece about Italy by an Italian composer, and Italian piece from an Italian composer based off of another Italian composer’s fragments, and a piece about Italy from a non-Italian composer.”
The concert is FREE, as are most offerings by the UT School of Music.