“Tales from the Sea” features pieces by Mendelssohn, Elgar and Rimsky-Korsakov
By Peter Alexander April 3 at 5:10 p.m.
One of the things Elliot Moore has heard most about since becoming conductor of the Longmont Symphony is the 2013 flood.
Moore was first interviewed for the position with the LSO in November of 2016 and he was hired the following spring. The current 2017–18 season is his first with the orchestra.
“I heard over and over that the flood of 2013 was a pivotal moment for Longmont,” he says. “Hearing so many stories about the flood, and how it’s still affecting life today, was the impetus behind this program. Because everyone had a story about the flood, I thought a program around water stories would speak to a Longmont audience.”
The program in question will be performed 7:30 p.m. Saturday (April 7) in Vance Brand Auditorium. There are many pieces of music about water, but Moore decided on two short pieces before intermission, and one longer one after: Mendelssohn’s overture The Hebrides to open the concert; Sea Pictures by Edward Elgar, with mezzo-soprano Sarah Barber; and filling the second half of the program, Rimsky-Korsakov’s popular Arabian-nights tone-poem, Scheherazade.
The Hebrides are a group of rugged island off the west coast of Scotland. Mendelssohn visited the islands, and a particularly picturesque cave carved from hexagonal columns of basalt known as “Fingal’s Cave” (another name for Mendelssohn’s overture).
“The Hebrides could be described as a postcard that Mendelssohn wrote when he visited the Hebrides,” Moore says. “As an outsider coming into Longmont, all the feelings that people were conveying to me are things that are (in) Mendelssohn’s overture. It’s a nostalgic and lonely piece, but it also includes a communal feeling.”
If Mendelssohn’s overture will be familiar to many in the LSO audience, the same cannot likely be said of Elgar’s Sea Pictures. In fact, it was not well known to Moore before he started preparing for the concert.
“I didn’t know the piece that well when I programmed it,” he admits. “So it’s been a real opportunity for me to get to know the music, and I have fallen in love with this piece. On the program, this is the piece I’m most looking forward to conducting.”
The Sea Pictures are five short movements, settings for mezzo and orchestra of five different poems by five different poets. “The water represents many things in Sea Pictures,” Moore says.
“It can represent the passage of time, and the feelings and the dangers for people when they’re around water. The third song is about a ship, and it’s a metaphor. The ship is essentially a congregation, and how we relate with other people and survive the challenging moments in our lives.
“It is spectacularly beautiful music that is rarely performed. I’m excited we’re bringing it here.”
Barber is a graduate of CU Boulder who has performed extensively in the front range area. She has sung with the Eklund Opera at CU, at Central City Opera, Opera Ft. Collins, the Colorado Symphony, Colorado Springs Philharmonic, and the Black Hills Symphony, among others. Twice a regional finalist of the Metropolitan Opera Guild Competition, she has won other awards in college and professionally.
While the first half of the concert expresses feelings Moore encountered when people talked about the flood—feelings of danger, of uncertainty, of loss—the music of the second half is more exotic and less exclusively about water. Scheherazade is based on the 1001 Nights, in which a young bride keeps herself alive by telling ever more gripping tales to her bloodthirsty husband.
The piece has four scenes that Rimsky describes in brilliant music that conveys a mood without being too literally programmatic. The first and last scenes are related to water and the sea. The movements are: ”The Sea and Sinbad’s Ship”; “The Kalandar Prince”; “The Young Prince and the Young Princess”; and “Festival at Baghdad. The Sea. The Ship breaks apart against a Cliff surmounted by a Bronze Horseman.”
There is one aspect of the story behind the music that Moore wants the audience to notice. “Over the course of the symphonic work, in many ways it becomes more critical that she tell a great story,” he says. “She’s coming to the end, and the question is, what will the end be? Will it be death?
“You can hear the voice of Scheherazade, which is the violin playing, as it becomes more and more urgent. And the sultan is so dying to know the end that he’s completely wrapped up in this story. So throughout the course of the work there is an evolution of the characters.”
You should also listen to the soloists within the orchestra, because Scheherazade is one of the great orchestra showpieces of the 19th century. “There are a lot of solos, and one of the things that I like about it is that it features all the principal winds—it’s very virtuosic for so many players of the orchestra,” Moore says. “And of course, there’s the violin and there’s the harp as well!
“It’s quite a virtuosic piece for the orchestra.”
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“Tales from the Sea”
Longmont Symphony Orchestra, Elliot Moore, conductor
With Sarah Barber, mezzo-soprano
Mendelssohn: The Hebrides (Fingal’s Cave)
Elgar: Sea Pictures
7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 7
Vance Brand Civic Auditorium, Longmont