Classics concert offers some new wrinkles to its usual repertoire

For Symphony, it's Casual Friday

23. Apr. 2008 – The Spokane Symphony's Casual Classics concerts give audiences a chance to hear the orchestra, not exactly with the players' hair down, but in less formal attire than the full dress of classics programs.


Past Casual Classics programs have featured music for a smaller-sized orchestra than required for Brahms or Tchaikovsky, but still pieces from the usual 18th- through 20th-century symphonic repertoire.


Friday's Casual Classics concert at the Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox breaks the mold. It ends with the 18th century and goes back nearly 200 years to the early 17th.


And, in even more of a departure, conductor Eckart Preu is opening Friday's concert with choral music. The Symphony Chorale will sing three of Heinrich Schütz's "Psalms of David."


The orchestra also will perform George Frederic Handel's Concerto Gross Op. 6, No. 7, Carl Phillip Emanuel Bach's Symphony in C major, and Mozart's Symphony No. 29.


"This is a survey of 200 years of music, beginning in the very late Renaissance and ending with Mozart, when the classical style is established," Preu says.


"This is the first time we have used the chorale for a Casual Classics," he adds, "because it is the first time we have had these concerts at the Fox.


"At the Bing (Crosby Theater), the stage was far too small for a chorus. And the Opera House was not the right space for baroque choral music. So the Fox opens up whole new possibilities for us."


Schütz, born exactly a century before J.S. Bach, was a German composer who studied in Venice and brought the Venetian style to Germany.


Preu has a special attachment to Schütz's music because the composer was kappellmeister in his home city, Dresden, where the conductor was a choirboy.


"I don't think the symphony has ever performed a work by Schütz," he says. "He was a very great composer who lays the groundwork for music that comes after him in terms of the expression, his use of language, and the flexibility of his rhythm.


"Schütz is such an amazing composer in the color he brings to music; every single word he transforms into music," Preu says.


"We are calling this concert 'New Sounds of Old Times,' and I think Schütz's music really shows that. It is almost the same thing Janacek does with the Czech language in the 20th century."


Preu has included works requiring double and triple choirs on Friday's program, including "An den Wassern zu Babel," "Jauchzet dem Herrn alle Welt" and "Herr, unser Herrscher."


Following the Schütz Psalms, Preu has programmed Handel's Concerto Grosso, Op. 6, No. 7.


"Last season, we played Schoenberg's reworking of this very concerto," the conductor says. "That's an amazing work, too. But I knew we had to do Handel's original. Sometime I would love to do them back-to-back. But that's for a future time."


Preu moves Friday's concert into the classical period with the Symphony in C major by J.S. Bach's second son, Carl Phillip Emanuel.


The younger Bach wrote six symphonies for strings commissioned by the Viennese ambassador to the Prussian court, Baron Gottfried von Swieten, who told him: "Don't worry about difficulties of the parts, just let yourself go."


"What we have here," Preu says, "is a bridge between the style of the old Bach and there is still some of that here and the full style of Haydn and Mozart, both of whom admired C.P.E. Bach and built on his models.


"But anytime you go from one style to a new style there are strange things happening, strange surprises that sound really funky."


Preu ends Friday's concert with Mozart's Symphony No. 29, written when he was only 19.


"I think every year we have to play at least one Mozart symphony," says Preu. "And this one has some surprises, too. In places it sounds like Haydn."


Preu will provide spoken program notes for the works on Friday's concert, and the English text of Schütz's "Psalmen Davids" will be projected as supertitles.

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