Merced’s world-class symphony joins in the celebration of America with “Reconnecting” — a powerful season finale that marks the Symphony’s return to live, in-person concerts at the Merced Theatre on Saturday, July 3, at 7:30 p.m.
A live-stream will also be available on the Merced Symphony YouTube channel at https://bit.ly/MSAtube, Comcast Channel 97, and AT&T U-Verse Channel 99.
Powerful melodies and familiar tunes drive this special performance under the direction of Maestro Ming Luke and Concertmaster Illana Thomas.
The evening begins with Felix Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 5 in D major/D minor, Op. 107. Popularly known as Reformation, this piece was written by a 20-something Mendelssohn for an 1830 celebration of the Augsburg Confession in Berlin. Reformation was not performed then, perhaps because Mendelssohn had contracted measles and could not finish his work in time. Audiences today know Reformation for its opening movement that evokes a sustained Gregorian chant, followed by the “Dresden Amen” — a six-note, stepwise ascending melody that is as catchy as any modern pop harmony.
They will next turn to selections of From the New World, Antonin Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95. Considered by many as the signature contribution from Bohemian composer Dvorak’s three-year residency at the National Conservatory of Music in New York, New World premiered at Carnegie Hall in 1893 to wide acclaim. Melodies throughout New World evoke plantation songs of the American south, and some musicologists speculate that the gently lyrical second movement stands as Dvorak’s interpretation of the spiritual “Goin’ Home.”
Merced Symphony’s triumphant return concludes with John Whitney’s arrangement of An American in Paris, the “rhapsodic ballet” by George Gershwin premiered in 1928 and given cinematic life in the 1951 Gene Kelly / Leslie Caron film of the same name.
Listen for complex, bluesy melodies marked by the sounds of taxi horns chirping along the Paris boulevards!
George Gershwin (1898-1937) started his musical career by churning out songs for the player pianos of his day and, beginning in 1920, musicals. His breakout song came in 1919 with Swanee, and later Rhapsody in Blue established Gershwin as a serious composer. According to legend, when Gershwin traveled to Paris with the intent to study with Maurice Ravel, Ravel refused to teach him, saying, “Why become a second-rate Ravel when you’re already a first-rate Gershwin?”
With “energy, creativity and charisma not seen since Leonard Bernstein,” Maestro Ming Luke is a versatile conductor who has excited audiences around the world. Highlights include conducting the Bolshoi Orchestra in Moscow, performances of Romeo and Juliet and Cinderella at the Kennedy Center, his English debut at Sadler’s Wells with Birmingham Royal, conducting Dvorak’s Requiem in Dvorak Hall in Prague, recording scores for a Coppola film, and over a hundred performances at the San Francisco War Memorial with San Francisco Ballet.
Following her debut with the San Francisco Symphony, violinist Ilana Blumberg Thomas is in demand as a chamber musician. Ilana recently worked with Philip Glass and Opera Paralelle, has recorded for film and television, including in Wynton Marsalis’ award-winning educational series Marsalis on Music, and performs and tours with bands on five-string electric violin. She has supported an array of musicians from Andrea Bocelli and Luciano Pavarotti to electronic duo ODESZA, Sarah Brightman, Josh Groban, Warren Haynes, and countless others.
Tickets for “Reconnecting” are $25 for general admission or $10 for students with ID, and can be purchased online at tickets.mercedtheatre.org or at the Merced Theatre Box Office, 301 W Main Street. Box Office hours are Tuesday-Friday from 1 to 5 p.m. Tickets can also be purchased at the door the evening of the concert. Seats are not reserved, and available on a first come, first served basis.
The Merced Symphony Association recognizes the collaboration of Heather Holt, Managing Director of The Art Kamangar Center at The Merced Theatre, as well as the entire Merced Theatre Foundation Board.
Funding for the “Reconnecting” concert has been provided, in part, under the federal CARES Act in addition to generous contributions from Symphony patrons and sponsors.
For more, go online to mercedsymphony.org.