The Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra’s all-Romantic Era program for this Saturday’s concert is a nice foil to the season opener of 20th century American symphonic music.
Conducted by Stilian Kirov, Saturday’s concert will feature the music of Late Romantic hero Johannes Brahms, and his Symphony No. 4 in E minor; Brahms’ “discovery” and protégé Antonin Dvorak, and his Concerto for Cello; and the Overture to the operetta “Die Fledermaus” by Johann Strauss II. It doesn’t get much more European than this.
Brahms was the icon of the “conservative” Romantic movement — a musical point of view that built upon that of past masters such as Bach, Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven — in direct opposition to the more “progressive” Romantic movement led by Richard Wagner, which rejected traditional musical practice in favor of music that would project impressions and feelings.
Despite such opposing philosophies, Brahms’ music, like that of his colleague Dvorak, is full of feeling, and his fourth symphony is a perfect example. Feelings are expressed through sweeping melodies, constantly evolving harmonies, and musical “color” created by the constant addition of dissonance and contrasts of loud and soft passages. But they are controlled by an adherence to formal musical structures and tonal melodies.
Dvorak, a Czech composer, owed his international fame to Brahms’ championing of him. With such support, Dvorak brought his homeland’s melodies and dance rhythms first to Western Europe and eventually to the United States, where he lived and worked for four years, traveling around the country absorbing American folk music of all kinds. Devoted to his own native folk music, Dvorak helped expand melodic and harmonic possibilities for composers.
Performing the Dvorak concerto is Serbian-French cellist Maja Bogdanovic, known internationally for her recital and chamber performances. A winner of several international performance competitions, Bogdanovic is also a champion of new music, and gained fame as a musical collaborator of Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki.
Music by Brahms’ good friend Johann Strauss II rounds out Saturday’s program. Strauss, famous for such popular pieces as “By the Beautiful Blue Danube” and “Tales from the Vienna Woods,” also wrote several operettas, such as “Die Fledermaus,” or “The Bat,” a popular entertainment for New Year’s Eve, that will add a light, frothy touch to the concert.