Ticket Center Stage

A Sea Symphony

Friday, March 16, 2018 8:00PM
Mead Theatre - Schuster Center

A Sea Symphony
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HANK DAHLMAN director, DPO Chorus

As spring is just around the corner, a musical program revolving around the theme of water is fitting. Water has symbolized many things, including fertility, purity or purification, and the passage of life. One metaphor that fits nicely with the music of this evening is flowing water as representing a journey. This will surely be a journey you won’t want to miss.

The concert’s journey begins on the Mediterranean coast. Claude Debussy’s La mer consists of three symphonic sketches that capture the composer’s fascination with the sea. As a nine-year-old child, Debussy had traveled to the coast with his family. It was then, at his first impression, that he became greatly enamored by the sea's crashing waves and endless view. Although categorized by his critics and reviewers as “impressionistic,” Debussy labeled his work as symbolist, in line with French symbolist poets Baudelaire, Verlaine, and Rimbaud. La mer as a work of symbolism invites listeners to the shore. Rather than writing this piece on site, Debussy composed this musical portrait mostly while in Paris, claiming that the sea would distract him. This complex piece of music was not entirely appreciated at its initial performance in 1905. But times have changed, and Debussy’s largest orchestral work is a beloved piece of many orchestral repertoires.

The evening’s journey then tumbles onto the waves of the open ocean. The Philharmonic ends the evening with British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams’ A Sea Symphony. First premiered in 1910, A Sea Symphony was the first of the composer’s nine symphonies. Vaughan Williams set the music to verses within Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. Perhaps the composer was drawn to this collection of poems that celebrated not just life, but humanity. The composer was of a similar mind in that he believed that music was for everyone. He worked to unearth and resurrect the body of English music. He didn’t want to “look to Germany” and its composers for music; he sought to find the music of his country and bring it into the 20th century. And that he did, as Vaughan Williams spent his career as a beloved and key British composer. He had one of the longest creative spans in musical history, composing well into his eighties—a 66-year period of productivity. At his death, his ashes were interred in Westminster Abbey near Henry Purcell.

“Whether my music is good or bad, it is always honest. . . . I could not put down on paper a line which I did not first feel in every part of me.” (Ralph Vaughan Williams) Don’t miss this musical voyage, all told in honest, rollicking song.