By Linda Holderness
The Folsom Symphony opens its 10th season, “Around the World and Beyond,” on Oct. 12 with “Titans,” featuring three works from German, Russian and Bohemian (now Czech Republic) composers.
The evening starts with Richard Wagner’s “Rienzi” overture, continues with Alexander Borodin’s “Polovtsian Dances” from the opera “Prince Igor” and closes with Gustav Mahler’s genius first symphony, “Titan.”
The performance begins at 7:30 p.m. at the Harris Center for the Arts.
“Rienzi, der Letzte der Tribunen” (“the last of the tribunes”), written between 1838 and 1840 and first performed in Dresden in 1842, was Wagner’s first successful opera. Composed in grand opera style and set in Rome, the story is based on the life of Cola di Rienzi, a medieval politician who tries to restore the greatness of ancient Rome. The overture begins with a call to war and ends with a military march. It features the melody of Rienzi’s prayer, which occurs in Act 5 and is the opera’s best-known aria.
Listeners will likely recognize the music of the “Polovtsian Dances” from Borodin’s opera “Prince Igor.” The tune has been adapted for the song “Stranger in Paradise,” recorded as “My Fantasy” and featured in the movie “Kismet.” It also appears in the heavy metal song “Lonely Winds of War.” The symphony’s performance will be accompanied by the Doreen Irwin Singers. The opera, completed after Borodin’s death by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Alexander Glazunov, premiered in St. Petersburg in 1890. Notable instrumental solos include clarinet, oboe and English horn.
Mahler composed his first symphony, sometimes referred to as “Titan,” in 1887 and 1888 and premiered the work in Budapest in 1889. This earliest version was not well received, and he continued to revise it until 1898. Mahler perfected the use of the German “lied,” or songs, in his symphonies. The first movement of “Titan” is a modified sonata; the second, a folk dance; the third, a spooky funeral theme that incorporates the melody, in minor mode, from the popular children’s tune “Frere Jacques.” The expansive fourth movement – a stormy finale with a huge climax – unifies the whole.
Mahler said this about the final movement: It “springs suddenly, like a lightning bolt from a dark cloud. It is simply the cry of a deeply wounded heart.” The audiences of the 19th century had a difficult time comprehending the explosive musical contrasts of this piece, but today’s listeners, accustomed to action-packed sound tracks, exult in the power of this music.
Individual and season tickets are still available for this concert, and for the symphony’s full five-concert season, on the website, folsomsymphony.com (season ticketholders save 10 percent over individually priced tickets). You can also buy tickets at (916) 608-6888. A full-season brochure is available on the symphony’s website.
All Folsom Symphony concerts are performed at the Harris Center for the Arts/Three Stages theater on the Folsom Lake College campus, 10 College Parkway, Folsom. Saturday concerts begin at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday concerts begin at 3 p.m.
For information about the Folsom Symphony, visit folsomsymphony.com or call (916) 357-6718.