For its upcoming concert, the Yale Philharmonia will bring four music icons back to life as it explores the works of several American and European composers.
The philharmonia will perform works by George Gershwin, Edward Elgar, Samuel Barber and Paul Hindemith this Friday in Woolsey Hall. Guest conductor Peter Oundjian will lead the show, which is part of a season featuring a total of seven concerts. Philharmonia Manager Andrew Parker MUS ’03 said that rather than having a season that revolves around a common theme, the philharmonia focuses on a distinct theme in each of its concerts. He added that this concert will focus on work by composers with connections to America, Europe and Yale. He cited George Gershwin’s “An American in Paris” as an example. Gershwin based the iconic piece on his travels to Paris.
“All of the music being played in this concert was written by American composers influenced by Europe or European composers influenced by America,” Parker said.
Yale School of Music professor Frank Tirro said that Gershwin broke new ground by incorporating popular music into his pieces. Though Gershwin died at just 38 years of age, Tirro noted, he still had a lasting impact on the music world through his work, which is largely based in tonality. Tirro added that Gershwin’s opera “Porgy and Bess” set a standard for American opera that ultimately led to its divergence from European operatic tradition.
Deputy Dean of the School of Music Melvin Chen explained that Paul Hindemith and Edward Elgar have historic connections to Yale.
“Being an American school and having a rich musical tradition here at Yale, we always try to have composers who have a relationship to America or to Yale,” said Chen.
Hindemith, who grew up in Germany, taught at Yale in the 1940s. Oundjian said he included Hindemith’s “Symphonic Metamorphosis” in the program because he has noticed that the piece is not frequently played, despite its popularity in past decades. Elgar, meanwhile, received an honorary doctorate from Yale in 1905. Tirro said that while he does not believe Elgar was a musical “revolutionary,” his graduation had a lasting impact on Yale. For instance, Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance” was played at the 1905 Yale commencement and is now a staple at graduation ceremonies, Tirro noted.
Samuel Barber’s “Symphony in One Movement” will also be played. Chen said he believes that Barber was one of America’s most important composers. Drawing on the fact that Barber’s symphony was played at the prestigious Salzburg Festival in 1936, Oundjian recalled this piece’s historic importance, noting that it was the first American piece ever to be played at the Salzburg Festival.
Celia Zhang MUS ’16, a violinist for the philharmonia, said she enjoys the way in which Oundjian approaches the music being played and brings the seemingly distinct pieces into a coherent repertoire.
Violist Daniel Stone MUS ’15 said he appreciates Oundjian’s understanding of student musicians and their experiences.
“A lot of conductors forget what its like from our perspective,” he said. “But [Oundjian] really knows what its like because he used to be a performer.”
The School of Music was founded in 1894.