Wed Mar 7, 2018

Tradition and storytelling link program’s works

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This weekend’s concert covers three centuries of music, representing three countries and three very different cultures. One might expect that a program like this elicits eclectic intentions, when in fact its undertones conceal currents of similarities. Shared themes of musical tradition, heritage and storytelling run through all the selected works on this program. 

The program features Carnival of the Ancients for Piano and Orchestraa world premiere from Richard Danielpour, an American composer with whom the NJSO has frequently collaborated. Although written in his unique and luscious style, Danielpour follows some time-honored practices that were familiar to Haydn and Tchaikovsky, the other composers on this program. Explore the works side by side:

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Danielpour’s Carnival of the Ancients & Haydn’s Sinfonia Concertante

When composers decide they want to compose a concerto (or concertante), they usually have a soloist in mind for the part. Johann Peter Salomon, with his talents and encouragement, was most likely the solo violinist in Haydn’s Sinfonia Concertante. The other selected soloists (cello, oboe and bassoon) tell us that Haydn may have had particular instrumentalists in mind, as did Richard Danielpour. 

Although not so named, Danielpour says that his new mystical work is indeed his fifth piano concerto; Sara Daneshpour, who gives the premiere, is the specific pianist he had in mind. Her musicianship and Iranian nationality called Danielpour to seek her out, as he shares the same national identity. In a recent interview, Danielpour explained that he “wrote this particularly for Sara because of her Iranian background—this is something we both share.”

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Danielpour’s Carnival of the Ancients & Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty & Francesca Da Rimini

Tchaikovsky had a way of writing music for old tales that fit so well, it is hard to believe the story ever existed without the music. The story of Sleeping Beauty and Francesca’s tragic love tale depicted in Dante’s Inferno inspired Tchaikovsky’s compositional imagination centuries after they were written. 

Danielpour’s Carnival of the Ancients, although a formal piano concerto, also includes extra-musical narratives. Danielpour describes the solo piano as playing the role of storyteller and says he too was inspired by ancient fables: “Each of these tales are allegories and sometimes the stories commingle with one another, but each of them is deeply embedded in the psyche of every Iranian. These stories from Shahnameh are the equivalent of Homer’s Iliad or Dante’s Divine Comedy.”

Danielpour describes each movement as a “Persian miniature” or “portrait” of a specific story, similar to the way the book of ancient fables collects them. “It was the great Persian poets that brought me back to my love of my ancestral culture after so many years of willfully pushing it away,” the composer explains. “So it made sense for me to have created a fantasy movement at the end [of the work] in which Rumi, Hafez and Khoyam dance the dance of whirling dervishes in paradise.”

Don’t miss the NJSO and pianist Sara Daneshpour as they take audiences on a musical journey through these timeless tales March 9–11 at NJPAC in Newark, Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank and State Theatre New Jersey in New Brunswick.

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Mar 9 - Mar 11

ZHANG CONDUCTS TCHAIKOVSKY

2017–18 Season

XIAN ZHANG conductor (pictured)
SARA DANESHPOUR piano
ERIC WYRICK violin | JONATHAN SPITZ cello
ROBERT INGLISS oboe | ROBERT WAGNER bassoon        
NEW JERSEY SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA