SHIPPENSBURG - This year's Shippensburg Festival Symphony and Chorus is celebrating "Grand Expressions," presenting works that will astonish with the breadth of their themes, the number of performers and the intensity of the feelings expressed tonally.
In three concerts over three weeks at the H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center at Shippensburg University, the audience will be treated to the largest oboe concerto written by Strauss, Mozart's largest scale minor symphony, Beethoven's largest concerto and Verdi's grandest opera.
The number of superlatives similarly describes the musical experience.
Presentation of these major works also highlights Shippensburg's growing significance on the national musical stage, with musicians and vocalists drawn from such acclaimed venues as the Julliard School and the world-famous Metropolitan Opera.
The first concert in the series, to be performed Thursday, July 14, features Richard Strauss' wartime "Metamorphosen," It reflects his sadness at the destruction of his beloved Dresden, heavily bombed during the Second World War. The piece is remarkable in that it features 23 violinists, each playing a solo within the overall work. "This may be the smallest of the pieces, but it is the biggest in subject matter," said Robert Trevino, conductor for all three concerts, who is returning for a fourth year with the Festival Symphony.
Trevino has performed around the world to great renown, and even the notably demanding Russian press praised him, saying: "There has not been an American success of this magnitude in Moscow since Van Cliburn."
Strauss is again featured in the next work in Concert I; this oboe concert is the largest ever written for the instrument by Strauss. Oboist Dwight Parry will be featured. His credits include stints at a number of symphonies, including the Deutsche Symphony of Berlin.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Symphony No. 40 in G Minor, the next piece on the program, was Mozart's penultimate work and it is the "largest, but the subject matter is lighter," said Trevino.
Concert II, on Thursday, July 21, features the Triple Concerto of Ludwig von Beethoven (also known by its more formal name, "Concerto for Violin, Cello and Piano in C Major, Opus 56"), the only one of this genre he wrote. "It is the largest Triple Concerto ever written on a symphonic scale," said Trevino.
Complementing it is Franz Schubert's Symphony No. 9 in C Major (known simply as "the Great"), Schubert's last work and his grandest. Trevino referred to it as having "heavenly proportions."
"In this masterwork, Schubert looks back at the greatness of Beethoven and steps out of his shadow, but in many ways still quotes him," Trevino explained. Schubert died at 31, never having heard his symphony played in public.
The featured performers in this concert are Caroline Goulding (violinist), Joshua Roman (cellist), and Julia Siciliano (pianist).
Concert III, on Thursday, July 28, is a stunning, well-loved and well-known opera, Giuseppe Verdi's "La Traviata," based on the novel and later play, "La Dame aux Camellias (Camille) by Alexandre Dumas. Verdi adapted the Camille story for opera with a libretto by Francesco Maria Piave.
"This is one of Verdi's most popular operas," said Blaine Shover, artistic director of the concert Series. It is the opera that Julia Roberts attends with Richard Gere in the movie "Pretty Woman."
The premiere of "La Traviata" was a disaster, with the audience laughing during the dramatic deathbed scene. A year later, it was re-staged in Venice with more rehearsal time and better production elements, and was a huge success. "It represents a core piece of the operatic repertoire," said Trevino, "touching on all the major elements - tragedy, love, sacrifice for duty."
In the principal role of Violeta is Amanda Pabyan, soprano, acclaimed for her technical ability, power, and multi-shaded performances. "This is an opera that breaks the normal rules, as it takes place over months and my role is especially complicated as I go from healthy to dying over its length," Pabyan said. "Dying changes how you approach a text. By tradition, the last music I sing is spoken to rhythm, not sung, indicating that Violeta is fading away."
Also appearing in the opera is the Shippensburg Festival Chorus, with 26 professional singers drawn from up and down the East Coast.
For those unfamiliar with the works to be performed, there are excellent program notes written by Nadine Sine, musicologist at Lehigh University. For the opera, an English translation will be projected above the stage, Shover said.
Shover said audiences should come to these productions as "they are an incredible event with first rate musicians, a great chorus, a good price," and, being very practical, "good parking."
WHEN YOU GO:
Shippensburg Symphony Festival Series
H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center
475 Lancaster Drive, Shippensburg
Concert I -Thursday, July 14, 7:30 p.m.
Concert II - Thursday, July 21, 7:30 p.m.
Concert III - Thursday, July 28, 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: - $35, $25, and $20
Tickets for those 18 and under - $10
For the entire series ; $100, $70, and $55.
For box office purchases and additional information, call 717-477-7469 or visit www.luhrscentercom