he Northern Neck Orchestra (NNO) conducted by music director Michael Repper will present a concert Saturday, March 25, at the Northumberland School Complex, 201 Academic Lane, Claraville. The concert will feature Ludwig van Beethoven’s monumental Symphony No. 5 as well as Florence Price’s landmark Symphony No. 1.
The performance will begin at 7:30 p.m. and will be preceded by a pre-concert talk by Repper at 6:45 p.m. Tickets are $40 and may be purchased at the door or www.northerneckorchestra.org. Students are admitted free.
Repper and the New York Youth Symphony received a Grammy Award for best orchestral performance of their recording of works by four American composers, including Price’s Ethiopia’s Shadow in America and her Piano Concerto, featuring Michelle Cann.
Symphony No. 5
Beethoven shattered all the rules with his Fifth Symphony, said Repper. “The emotion, drama and structure in the revolutionary composition were unheard of when it premiered 215 years ago,” he said. “And it all emerges from those iconic first four notes which unify the work, making it larger than life even today.”
Repper noted the symphony has been associated with a number of innovations, including the strikingly short nature of the main theme. And it was one of the first symphonies to use trombones.
“Most people have heard Beethoven’s Fifth at least through recordings, but attending a live performance of this composition is a remarkable event,” Repper said. “You will experience its breathtaking power, beauty and uplift in a highly personal way. I guarantee you will also love Florence Price’s Symphony no. 1. Don’t miss this concert.”
Symphony No. 1
“We are delighted to feature another magnificent composition by Florence Price,” Repper said. “Price’s skillful mix of gospel, African dance and European forms makes her a true musical pioneer.”
The NNO earlier performed Ethiopia’s Shadow in America, Sonata for Piano and Suite of Dances.
Written in 1931, Symphony No. 1 won the Rodman Wanamaker Prize in 1932 which brought Price’s music to the attention of Frederick Stock, the German-born composer and conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The orchestra performed the world premiere of the work to much critical acclaim in June 1933.
Price based the first movement of her symphony on two freely composed melodies reminiscent of African-American spirituals. The second movement is based on a hymn-like melody and texture played by a 10-part brass choir. The jovial third movement, entitled “Juba Dance,” uses characteristic African-American dance rhythms. The symphony closes with a tour de force presto movement based on an ascending and descending scale figure.
In spite of its initial success, the symphony was largely ignored for decades until unpublished manuscripts of the symphony and other works by Price were uncovered in 2009.
“The NNO is pleased to provide greater recognition for this magnificent symphony which had been unfairly neglected for so long,” Repper said.