The Converse Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Siegward Reichwald will open with Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, Op. 11. Dr. Reichwald states, “Adagio for Strings is by far Samuel Barber’s best-known composition. This seems unusual, since it was also one of Barber’s early successes that established him as a composer. Toscanini premiered it in 1938.”
In 1984 Ellen Taaffe Zwilich was commissioned to write the Concerto Grosso in commemoration of the three-hundredth anniversary of Handel’s birth. Zwilich almost immediately thought to base her own work on that of the composer’s D Major Violin Sonata. “I performed the work many years ago,” she said. “And I especially love the opening theme of the first movement — the striking head motive and the beauty of the generative tension between the theme and the elegant bass line.” The resulting composition, she says, is a “twentieth-century response to the spirit of George Frideric Handel. My concerto is both inspired by Handel’s sonata and, I hope, imbued with his spirit.” Zwilich taught at Converse College for one year during the early 1960s, and received an honorary doctorate from Converse in the late 1980s.
Last on the program is Felix Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 3 in A minor, Op. 56. According to Dr. Reichwald, “Mendelssohn’s ‘Scottish’ Symphony espouses the youthful sense of adventure, while written by the hands of a mature composer. The first movement opens with a highly expressive introduction which leads into a tightly composed sonata form that emphasizes struggle through emphasis on instability in all parts of sonata form. The ensuing scherzo is a typical fleet-footed affair that engages the listener through clear phrasing and transparent orchestration. The slow movement further develops the unresolved narrative of the opening movement, setting up the last movement as the central part of this four-movement plot. It is not until the triumphant horn theme in the coda that the narrative is brought to a climactic close.”