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Nearly Sold-Out Bacchic Orgy: Anchorage Symphony Season Finale

The Original Bacchic Orgy. Gioanni Battista Gaulli's Triumph of Bacchus and Ariadne

The Anchorage Symphony is playing their season finale this Saturday, and, as of this writing, there are only EIGHT TICKETS LEFT for this sweet concert. If you manage to get a ticket, lucky you. Expect intellectualism, sentimentality, and musical bacchanalia.

So what exactly is on the program? A new piece for our Celestial Soundtrack! The concert will open with Comet, a ten-minute tone poem by George Tsontakis, commissioned for this concert by the Symphony’s “Musica Nova” program. The American composer wrote this for the program notes:

The title came to me almost immediately after composing the musically “strophic”, if not “rhyming” opening tune, which is formed by the call and responses of a four-note falling figure. As the work evolves, the opening tune fragments, abstracts, and appears to disintegrate until turning into strong and guttural pure energy. Parabolic glissandi adorn the tune and its evolution, and grow with the dynamism of the work’s texture.

Wow. I don’t know about you, but this is the first time I’ve seen instrumental music — presumably with no sung or spoken text — described as “rhyming”, although when you think about it, strophic songs (i.e., songs with repeating verses), usually do rhyme. As for “parabolic glissandi”, I can only assume that means that the players will be gliding up and down the scale in some sort of parabolic-shaped curve of notes… ?? But really, who, besides advanced rocket scientists and George Tsontakis, has pondered a parabolic curve since high school calculus class? Comet will be cerebral, that’s for sure; will it be ear-pleasing? I’m eager to hear this world premiere to find out.

After Comet, the Symphony will tackle Brahms’s Double Concerto for violin and cello. Done well, this piece is nothing but ear-pleasing, and the casting is just heart-tugging. On violin is the beloved, out-going director of the Sitka Music Festival, Paul Rosenthal, and his partner on cello is his replacement, the new festival director, Zuill Bailey. Maestro Randall Fleischer wrote, “This Brahms Double will be a highly emotional ‘passing of the baton’ for classical music lovers in Anchorage,” and I’d probably shed a few tears myself, if I weren’t so transfixed by the cellist.

After we dry out over intermission, the concert will culminate with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, which the composer himself declared one of his best works. Others have called it the “apotheosis of the dance” (Richard Wagner), a “masquerade of drunkards” (Jonathan Kramer for Alexandre Oulibeschev), and “a bacchic orgy” (Paul Bekker).

A bacchic orgy, huh? No wonder it’s practically sold out!  And after the parabolic glissandi and tear-jerking Brahms, rowdy revelry sounds good to me.

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The Anchorage Symphony plays their season finale on Saturday, April 14, 2012 at 8:00 p.m. in the Atwood Concert Hall of the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts. As of this writing, there are eight tickets left through Centertix. If you can’t get a seat, subscribe now to the Symphony’s 2012–2013 Season, which includes Berlioz’s Damnation of Faust, Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7, a Latin concert with the Harlem String Quartet, and another piece from our Celestial Soundtrack: Tchaikovsky’s Pluto Symphony, his Sixth Symphony, aka the Pathétique.

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