UMBC Symphony Orchestra
Admission is free but a ticket required for entry. Please note that additional day-of-performance tickets will be available at the door only as space permits. (Tickets will be available here on April 15.)
Ralph Vaughan Williams - Concerto for Oboe (1944) featuring Anne Saba (oboe)
Launy Grøndahl - Concerto for Trombone (1924) featuring Daniel Sperlein (trombone)
Florence Price - Symphony No. 3 in C Minor (1940) featuring Molly Schneider (conductor)
Antonin Dvorák - Symphony from the New World (1893)
The UMBC Symphony will present four works written during a 51-year span (1893–1944) that both reflect and predict dramatic cultural changes in European and American art-music during this time and beyond.
Returning to the US after studying music in Paris, Jeanette Thurber (with the help of the considerable financial resources of her businessman-husband) founded the National Conservatory in New York in 1891. Her dream was to establish this school in which talented students of all backgrounds would be supported at the government’s expense, regardless of gender, race, or economic background. The mission of this school would be to help these young people establish an American style. She needed a well-known musician to serve as director, and succeeded in persuading Antonin Dvorák (one of the most famous living composers in Europe) to accept her invitation.
During his more than two years in New York (1892-1895), Dvorák largely accomplished Thurber’s aspiration! Not only did he compose his Symphony from the New World, but a number of other works, including his American String Quartet.
The African-American presence in the American music scene was immense during Dvorák’s years in New York, so it is no accident that his fascination seems to have centered especially on spirituals. In the near future, one of Dvorák’s Conservatory students, Harry Burleigh, would create dozens of spiritual arrangements that would become famous well beyond the African-American community….as would works such as Dvorák’s American String Quartet and SymphonyFrom the New World which captured the essence (without musical quotation) of both the African American spirituals, and Czech music of Dvorák’s homeland (polkas, and other dances). Additional influences for Dvorák’s “new world” were as diverse as Longfellow’s 1855 poem “The Song of Hiawatha” (Dvorák also heard native American music at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893), Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, and the opening of Richard Wagner’s Parsifal (1882).
Florence Price (1887–1953), who settled in Chicago in 1927, was the most widely known African-American woman composer from the 1930s until her death. She was not only among the first African-Americans to attend the prestigious New England Conservatory in Boston (studying composition and organ), but also among the first African-American symphonists. In her music of the 30s, cultural characteristics were borne by the pentatonic themes, call-and-response procedures, syncopated rhythms, and preponderance of altered tones and color differentiation of instrumental choirs. Her Symphony No. 3 in C minor (premiered in 1940), though, was inspired by new philosophical, political, and social currents, stemming from the Chicago Renaissance (1935-1950). The Great Migration of African-Americans from the south to Chicago, the Depression, and the adjustment to urban life provided vivid life experiences as subject matter for Chicago Renaissance writers and artists (including Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, and Margaret Bonds). Price's symphony, which omits overtly African-American themes and simple dance rhythms, presents a modern approach to composition—a synthesis, rather than a retrospective view, of African-American life and culture. In a letter to an administrator of the Michigan WPA orchestra, she explained the genesis of the symphony this way: “The intention behind the writing of this work was a not too deliberate attempt to picture a cross-section of present-day African-American life and thought with its heritage of that which is past, paralleled or influenced by concepts of the present day.”
Our performance of the first movement, conducted by Molly Schneider (a senior music major at UMBC), will be only the second performance of this work on the East Coast.
Like the Dvorák symphony, the Oboe Concerto by Ralph Vaughan Williams is influenced by folk/vernacular music – in this case, that of England. After a lengthy search for his musical voice, Vaughan Williams formulated it from England’s rich treasury of folk song, and the heritage of its Tudor-era music. The warmth, spirituality, and humor of those sources played a significant role in many of his compositions. The example he set of bringing together traditional sources with modern techniques paved the way for British composers of later generations, such as Benjamin Britten, to continue and elaborate the practice.
The Oboe Concerto was commissioned and premiered by the internationally celebrated English soloist, Léon Goossens. Several other distinguished composers wrote music expressly for him, including Edward Elgar and Benjamin Britten. In the first movement (Rondo Pastorale), the oboist gracefully moves among a number of different musical modes (including D Aeolian, G Ionian, C Dorian, and F# Aeolian), returning to A Dorian three times after the opening (thus outlining a rondo form).
Soloist Anne Saba is a math major at UMBC (class of 2020), and a winner of the 2017-2018 UMBC Concerto Competition. She studies oboe with Fatma Daglar
Danish composer Launy Grøndahl had a remarkable career. He was a composition student of noted composers, including Ernst Bloch and Carl Nielsen, and wrote a variety of music for bassoon and violin (concertos), as well as orchestra, art songs, chamber music, and piano pieces. As a child prodigy, he began studies in violin at age eight, and was playing professionally with the Casino Theater Orchestra in Copenhagen by the time he was thirteen. It was his thirty-one year tenure as conductor of the Danish Broadcasting Corporation that shaped his life most profoundly, though.
The Trombone Concerto was written for his friend Wilhelm Aarkrogh, who was a member of the Royal Orchestra of Copenhagen. The work is in three movements, each built upon two contrasting themes using a chromatically tonal late-Romantic harmonic language.
Soloist Daniel Sperlein, a winner of the 2017-2018 UMBC Concerto Competition, is a music performance major and Linehan Artist Scholar at UMBC (class of 2019). He studies trombone with Patrick Crossland.
Plan your visit
UMBC is located about 10 minutes south of the Inner Harbor along I-95. For this event, free visitor parking is available in Lot 8, directly adjacent to the Performing Arts and Humanities Building, where Linehan Concert Hall is located — please see here for additional information.