KSO This Week: Guest conductor Aram Demirjian — Beethoven, Bruch, Ligeti, Adams

Knoxville Symphony Orchestra Masterworks
Guest conductor: Aram Demirjian
Guest violinist: Philippe Quint
Thursday and Friday, January 21,22, 7:30 p.m.
Tennessee Theatre, 604 S. Gay Street, Downtown Knoxville
Tickets: http://www.knoxvillesymphony.com or 865-291-3310


Philippe Quint

Philippe Quint

It is now the 2016 side of the music season and the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra resumes its Masterworks Series schedule this week with the third of six guest conductors who are vying for the vacant music director position with the orchestra. Without hesitation, I can say that this concert pair, with works chosen by guest conductor Aram Demirjian, will be the most musically diverse heard so far and with the potential to be one of the more entertaining. Demirjian, currently the associate conductor of the Kansas City Symphony, is opening with John Adams’ Lollapalooza, a work from 1995 that has a propulsive rhythm from percussion and brass—then ending with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7. In between comes György Ligeti’s Concert Românesc (Romanian Concerto) and Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1. Violinist Philippe Quint will be the soloist in the Bruch.

György Ligeti was born May 28, 1923, in Târnăveni Transylvania, in what was then Hungary, now Romania. He died June 12, 2006, in Vienna, Austria. His Concert Românesc was composed in 1951 and revised in the mid-1990s. It was not premiered until 1971 when it was performed at the Peninsula Music Festival in Fish Creek, Wisconsin, with Thor Johnson conducting The Festival Orchestra. After the failed Hungarian Revolution against the Soviets in 1956, Ligeti fled Hungary for Germany, finding a musical home in Darmstadt and its avant-garde music community.

Concert Românesc had its beginnings when Ligeti spent time at the Folklore Institute in Bucharest in 1949 transcribing folk songs. It was these tunes that led to the 1951 composition. Unfortunately, all music and composers during the Stalin years were subject to review and censorship. As a result, Concert Românesc was deemed unacceptable after one rehearsal and was subsequently forbidden by the Soviet government.

It is a bit mind-boggling today as to what the Soviet regime found so troubling in this work. To 2016 ears, the work sounds reasonably lyrical with vague hints of 20th Century modernity. Film fans will find it interesting that director Stanley Kubrick admired Ligeti’s music, even to the extent of using it without the composer’s knowledge or permission. Kubrick used portions of four of his compositions—Atmosphères, Aventures, Lux aeterna, and Requiem—in his 2001: A Space Odyssey. Kubrick later made use of music from Lontano to add chills to The Shining. This 12-13 minute work is scored for 2 flutes (2nd doubles piccolo), 2 oboes (2nd doubles English horn), 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 3 horns, 2 trumpets, percussion (bass drum, cymbals, snare drum), and strings.


John Adams: Lollapalooza
György Ligeti: Concert Românesc
Max Bruch: Concerto for Violin and Orchestra No. 1 in G Minor, Op.26 (Philippe Quint, violinist)
(The KSO’s last performance of the Bruch was in 2008 with violinist Augustin Hadelich and Lucas Richman conducting.)
Beethoven: Symphony No. 7 in A Major