On May 19, conductor Rene Knetsch will lead the 70-member Parker Symphony Orchestra in a concert called “Arabian Nights” at the PACE Center.
In a recent talk for residents of Vita in Littleton, Knetsch described the program, with help from concertmaster/violinist Nadya Hill and cellist Cheri Swisher, who played passages of music from the program as he explained it.
“Bachinal Brasilieros # 5 for Soprano and Cellos” by Heitor Villa-Lobos begins the program. The text is Brazilian Portuguese, which is more melodic than European Portuguese. The multi-talented Hill, who also performs as a soprano, will sing the aria.
“Cuban Overture,” a tone poem by George Gershwin, will be included. It was first performed on Aug. 16, 1932 at New York City’s Lewiston Stadium by the New York Philharmonic — in the first all-Gershwin concert, with 17,842 attending. (Bigger than Red Rocks, Knetsch commented.) Hill, Parker Symphony’s concertmaster, played a segment from it.
Next will be Carl Nielsen’s “Aladdin Suite opus 34.” He was a Danish composer who taught at the Royal Danish Academy until 1931. He played second violin in the Royal Danish Orchestra for seven years.
“Scheherazade” by Nicoloy Rimsky-Korsakov, one of his most famous works, tells the tale of the young woman who told stories for a cruel sultan. It had previously been his custom to spend a night with a young virgin, then kill her in the morning.
Scheherazade would always stop midway through her story, when the sultan would fall asleep and make him wait until the next night for a finish, then start another new one, again stopping midway. This continued for 101 nights, readers may recall. There is music that reflects the sultan’s anger
Knecht commented that he was not a big fan of having a theme in a concert, but this one does. He was charmed the first time he heard the work, less so now. Hill said it was fun and showed a spirit coming out of the First World War. Knecht’s wife, Lynn, also a Parker Symphony violinist, commented that is “very accessible.” She added: “We wouldn’t be playing this music if we didn’t have Cheri and Nadya.”
Knecht said that after the “Scheherazade” opening, the heavy music reflects the sultan’s anger — it’s increasingly difficult to play. Hill played the leitmotif from “Scheherezade,” a familiar theme, then heavy music portraying the angry king, a theme that has become familiar for angry kings ... a devil tone, repeated many times. “I find it difficult every time we play it,” Swisher said.
“Nothing here is very simple,” Knecht agreed.
In the early part, the cello is Sinbad’s ship, with the violin playing on top ... The theme repeats in the fourth movement. He wrote the tri-tone on purpose, a “Devil tone,” Knecht commented.
Knecht taught at Arapahoe Community College for 17 years, he said.
He also told a bit about the upcoming fall season. “In October, we will perform the Beethoven Violin Concerto, with the concertmaster of the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, Yumi Hwang Wang, playing on her 1748 Guadagnini instrument.”