The Charlottesville and University Symphony Orchestra Presents Hymns & Highlands

October 02, 2007

Oct. 2, 2007 -- The Charlottesville and University Symphony Orchestra will kick off its Music of Legend season with "Hymns and Highlands,” a concert with works by Mendelssohn, Bruch, Cowell and Chadwick. This will be the first subscription concert of the 2007-2008 season, and it will be conducted by Music Director Kate Tamarkin. The concert will be on Saturday, Oct. 6 at 8 p.m., with a second performance on Sunday, Oct. 7 at 3:30 p.m.

The concert will start with a well-known piece by Felix Mendelssohn, the Hebrides Overture. Mendelssohn, a German Romantic composer, wrote the overture in 1830 after a visit to the Scottish seaside. The repeated opening theme is suggestive of ocean waves, and the composer himself wrote that he aimed for the feel of “train oil, gulls and salted cod.” Mendelssohn’s bass and cello lines are soothing, while his signature energetic violins radiate optimism. One of the 19th century’s most important musical figures, Mendelssohn is also famous for the “Scottish” and “Italian” symphonies and the “Elijah” Oratorio.

Composer Max Bruch, also of German origin, was strongly influenced by Mendelssohn. Bruch wrote his “Scottish Fantasy” in 1880 based on Scottish folk melodies. The compelling violin melody varies between triumph and sorrow, and the orchestra mirrors and augments these themes. Best known for his Violin Concerto, Bruch drew much of his inspiration from the folk music of Scotland, Sweden and Russia. He went on to teach other influential composers including Ottorino Respighi and Ralph Vaughan Williams.

David Colwell will be performing Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy with the Symphony. Mr. Colwell is the concertmaster for the Symphony. He also co-directs the student chamber music program at the University and teaches private violin lessons. Mr. Colwell has had an impressive career, including a solo debut with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra at age 14. In 1998 and 1999, he spent two summers at the Mozarteum's Summer Academy in Salzburg, Austria after winning scholarships from the Johann Strauss Foundation. He spent the summers of 2004 and 2005 studying and performing at the Ravinia Festival in Chicago. Mr. Colwell holds degrees from the Yale School of Music and the University of Alberta.

“Hymn and Fuguing Tune No. 2” is the second in a series of 18 such pieces written by American composer Henry Cowell between 1943 and 1964. Cowell is best known for his experimental works, many of which are atonal or polytonal. A social and artistic radical, he spent four years in prison on a “morals” charge stemming from his bisexuality. Possibly as a result of his imprisonment, Cowell’s later works are considered more subdued and traditional than his earlier ultra-modernist pieces. The “Hymn and Fuguing” series, written towards the end of his career, is based on American folk music and songs from his Irish heritage.

The “Tam O’Shanter” ballad by George Whitefield Chadwick is an exciting and modern work. Written in 1914 during Chadwick’s “dramatic” period, the ballad is based on a poem by the Scottish poet Robert Burns. The programmatic music tells Burns’ story of an inebriated man who experiences hallucinations. It is a spiritual journey of sorts, and the polytonal themes reflect the protagonist’s plunge into a sensory chaos. High flutes and pounding drums bring out the dissonances of the piece, which boasts other interesting instrumentation. Chadwick is considered an American realist and is known as one of the “Boston Six,” arguably America’s first group of significant composers.

Free pre-concert lectures will be held in Minor Hall starting 45 minutes before each concert. They will be led by McIntire Department of Music Associate Professor Richard Will. In addition, Tamarkin will continue her popular “Noon Notes” lecture series. “Noon Notes” is held each Friday before concert weekends, at noon, in the Downtown branch of the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library.

Who: Charlottesville and University Symphony Orchestra
Kate Tamarkin, Music Director

What: Hymns & Highlands
First Concert in the 2007-2008 Season

Program: Felix Mendelssohn, Hebrides Overture
Max Bruch, Scottish Fantasy for Violin & Orchestra
with David Colwell, violin
Henry Cowell, Hymn and Fuguing Tune No. 2
George Whitefield Chadwick, Tam O’Shanter

When: Saturday, October 6 at 8:00pm
Sunday, October 7 at 3:30pm

Where: Old Cabell Hall at the University of Virginia

Tickets: Single tickets range from $11 to $28 and can be purchased at the Cabell Hall Box Office at (434) 924-3984, 12pm to 5pm, Monday through Friday. For more information, visit