The Charlottesville & University Symphony Orchestra Launches 2007 with 'Sounds of Shakespeare'

Jan. 30, 2007 -- The Charlottesville and University Symphony Orchestra kicks off a new year of music with "Sounds of Shakespeare," a literary-themed concert with pieces by Prokofiev, Walton and Nicolai. This will be the third subscription concert of the 2006-07 season and will be conducted by Music Director Kate Tamarkin. The concert will feature Shakespeare narrator Thadd McQuade, presented in partnership with the American Shakespeare Center. Performances will be on Saturday, Feb. 10 at 8 p.m., and on Sunday, Feb. 11 at 3:30 p.m. in Old Cabell Hall.

William Walton, a twentieth-century British composer, composed the film score for Henry V in 1944. He was granted leave from World War II to write patriotic music for the British government. His score became famous through the film, which was also actor Laurence Olivier's directorial debut. Ms. Tamarkin has selected excerpts that preserve the spirit of Walton’s score. The narrator delivers key speeches from Shakespeare’s play; the most celebrated being the St. Crispin’s Day speech. Throughout the Suite, Walton synthesizes old and new, alluding to medieval and renaissance music through phrasing and texture, but bringing his harmonies forward to a more twentieth-century idiom. He honors the spirit of Henry V’s age, but interprets that spirit with his own voice. Perhaps the greatest praise for Walton’s score came from Sir Laurence Olivier himself: “. . . the most wonderful [score] I’ve ever heard for a film. In fact, for me, the music actually made the film.”

Sergei Prokofiev, born in the Russian Empire in 1891, completed Romeo and Juliet in 1936. The piece was written as a ballet, but Prokofiev extracted several suites for orchestra alone. The movements directly reference the text, but even skeptics of Shakespeare can appreciate the melodies. The orchestra will perform select excerpts from the piece, ranging from the cheerful Minuet to the serious Romeo at Juliet's Tomb. Other selections include Montagues and Capulets, Masks, and The Death of Tybalt. With or without literary context, the emotionally rich dances, confrontations and tragedies are instantly recognizable in the music. The piece is full of exciting changes in dynamics, impressive percussion highlights and poignant themes.

Otto Nicolai, a nineteenth-century German composer, based his opera, "The Merry Wives of Windsor," on Shakespeare's comedy of the same name. Nicolai finished this opera in 1849 and died just months later at the young age of 38. The orchestra will perform the instrumental overture, which includes several musical themes that appear later in the work. The opera itself is an intense display of German vocals in three acts. Although Nicolai draws heavily upon German operatic tradition, his influences also include Mozart, Bellini and Donizetti.

"Sounds of Shakespeare" will bring timeless stories alive with music reaching from classic to modern.

Tickets: Single tickets range from $11-$25 and can be purchased at the Cabell Hall Box Office at (434) 924-3984, 12pm to 5pm, Monday through Friday.