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Tue, Aug. 20

Watts to perform Brahms with Phoenix Symphony

Hermann Michael will conduct the Phoenix Symphony in Prescott at 3 p.m. Sunday, at the Yavapai College Performance Hall.

A pre-concert discussion for all ticket holders is at 2 p.m.

Guest soloist is pianist André Watts.

This, the last concert of the season, "Electric Watts," features two pieces: one by Antonin Dvorak and one by Johannes Brahms.

Brahms heard the young Dvorak perform and was much impressed. He took him under his wing and openly promoted him. Such relationships were rare in music history and composers in particular, but Brahms urged his publisher to publish some of Dvorak's early works and Dvorak became an overnight celebrity.

Their relationship continued for years. Brahms remained a loyal friend and mentor until his death in 1897.

The first piece is Symphony No. 9 in E Minor, Op. 95 "From the New World," by Dvorak. This symphony was premiered in New York while Dvorak was the director of the New York National Conservatory.

He felt the foundation of American music was in the so-called "Negro Melodies."

"They are pathetic, tender, passionate, melancholy, solemn, religious, bold, merry, gay, gracious, or what you will. There is nothing in the whole range of composition that cannot find a thematic source there."

While some may have found Dvorak's view somewhat simplistic, these tunes enriched his classically schooled composing technique.

This "New World" symphony has a glimpse of "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" in the first movement, but is pure Dvorak – that is to say, beautifully proportioned, optimistic and filled with melodies.

The second composition is Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 15 by Brahms, featuring pianist André Watts.

Brahms was inspired to write this concerto by Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. He wrote and rewrote for a period of five years and the concerto took various forms before its premier in 1859.

It is at times demonic and grandiose, but as the piano enters, it does so quietly, in a calm after the storm. The essential mood is of youthful, unbridled anger mixed with serenity and tenderness.

The piano solo, massive and difficult, is integrated into the orchestra in a way that was, in its day, unprecedented in symphonic scope for a solo concerto.

Season tickets are virtually sold out, but individual tickets may be available at the door.

Those interested in season tickets for the 2001-2 season may register for a waiting list by contacting the Yavapai Symphony Association office at 776-4255. YSA office hours are 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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