Elliot Moore, new music director, opens the 2017–18 season Oct. 7
By Peter Alexander
The Longmont Symphony Orchestra (LSO) enters a new era Saturday (Oct. 7), playing their first regular-season concert with recently-hired music director Elliot Moore.
Titled “New Frontiers with Old & New Friends,” it will be the first major concert since the full retirement of Robert Olson, who was music director of the LSO for 34 years. “Having a new music director after 34 years is an entirely new frontier, for the orchestra, and maybe for the community,” Moore says.
The idea of frontiers runs through the entire season, from “New Frontiers and Old Friends” Saturday, to a program titled “The American Frontier” on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, to spring concerts featuring a world premiere, music evocative of the sea, and the LSO’s first-ever chamber orchestra concert in the Longmont Museum’s Stewart Auditorium. (See the full season here.)
The frontier theme also has a personal meaning for Moore. “Moving out here is definitely a new frontier, for both me and my wife,” he says. “I’m very happy to say that we love it here, we’re having a fantastic time living in the community.”
The additional theme of friendships old and new runs through Saturday’s concert. Foremost of course is the fact that Moore is making many new friends as he settles into the Longmont community. But that idea is also reflected in the music Moore selected for the program: Slalom by CU composition professor Carter Pann, Rachmaninoff’s beloved Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini with pianist Spencer Meyer, and Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations.
The first half of this program is devoted to new friends, including the pianist playing the Rachmaninoff, Spencer Meyer. “He and I share the same artistic manager and we’ve been hearing about each other for a long time,” Moore says. “I’m really excited to be working with him for the first time.”
In a sense the Rachmaninoff might be thought of as an old friend for musicians and audiences alike. With its virtuoso exploration of Paganini’s famous theme—used by numerous composers as a subject for variations—and the beautifully tender 18th variation, it’s a piece that everyone loves.
“Everybody does love this piece,” Moore says. “It has a lot to do with the great violinist Paganini and the story that Paganini sold his soul to the devil, and it includes the (melody of the) 13th-century Dies Irae chant throughout the work.
“When you know the meaning (of the chant,) which is the Day of Wrath, I think it gives the music more meaning and enhances everyone’s experience.”
Pann is another new friend for Moore. “While we have never met, we’ve had wonderful exchanges on e-mail about his music,” he says. “I’m really excited to be working with him. Having such an incredible artist living right here within the community is inspiring.”
Pann’s piece, describing a fast descent of a ski run, is filled with quotations from popular classical pieces. “In my head, I see Carter putting on his headphones,” Moore says. “He puts on his favorite playlist and starts zooming down the mountain. You’ll hear some works that are familiar to us all in his piece.”
Elgar’s Enigma Variations, the final piece on the program, is all about friendship. Each of the score’s 14 variations is a character sketch of one of Elgar’s friends. Elgar, who enjoyed puzzles, concealed the names of the people represented—some only slightly, by using their initials, others more carefully with puns or more cryptic designations. One titled “Romanza” is represented by a series of asterisks, which may stand for a local musical patron, who was away on a sea voyage, or a lost love of Elgar’s youth who had sailed to New Zealand years before.
Perhaps the most famous variation is titled “Nimrod.” In it, Elgar paints a portrait of a close friend and associate, Augustus Jaeger. In German Jaeger means “hunter,” which suggested the Biblical name of Nimrod, “a mighty hunter before the Lord.” Others portrayed in the piece include Elgar himself, his wife, and amateur musicians from Elgar’s circle.
Moore likes to note that some of the variations also tell a story that would be known to the subject. “One example is one of his friends, (who) liked to play fetch with his dog,” he explains. “The musical vignette is about playing a game of fetch, and the dog barking. That’s the story that the two of them knew about.”
The Enigma Variations can be enjoyed without knowing any of this, but Moore aims to provide as much information as possible. “I think the more you understand, the more fun you have,” he says. “I intend to give a talk, with some musical examples, to everyone who’s there.”
Enhancing listeners’ understanding and enjoyment of the concerts is one of Moore’s main goals as director of the LSO. Or in the poetic language of concert themes, introducing the audience to both new friends and old.
# # # # #
Opening Night: New Frontiers with Old & New Friends
Longmont Symphony Orchestra, Elliot Moore, conductor
Spencer Meyer, piano
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 6
Vance Brand Civic Auditorium, Longmont