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Maestro David Itkin conducts the University of North Texas Symphony Orchestra, which will perform Friday night.
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Fall festival at UNT College of Music celebrates artistic collaborations

Weary of the NBA-player-size amps? Ready for some sort of antidote to the return of scarves, black-rimmed eyeglasses and beards that have now settled over Denton as college students press valiantly toward midterms? Are you sick to death of turkey legs?

We’ve heard the murmurings around town. As a barista set the milk frothing doohickey to “scream” at a local coffee house, we caught the end of what sounded like an exhausted complaint.

“The Denton Blues Fest? That was last weekend? Are we having music festivals year-round now?”

No. Denton is not hosting music festivals every weekend. The next biggie is Denton’s Day of the Dead on Oct. 27.

But now, the University of North Texas College of Music has gotten in on the festival action.

Denton, meet the Fall Festival of Orchestras.

See what they did there? The College of Music has a season of festivals — but you won’t need earplugs, sunscreen or sensible shoes. You will need a sense of adventure and a craving for a loudness that will be, well, quiet.

“Our fall season is especially remarkable for the musical collaborations that are taking place,” said James Scott, the dean of the College of Music.

Scott said he was especially pleased with the teamwork between the college and guest artists, and with the long-running partnership between the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.

Though the planned Oct. 8 performance by the Sichuan Conservatory of Music with conductors David Wong and Qiyuan Zhu has been canceled, the college will host five concerts in just over three weeks.

All of the concerts will take place in Winspear Hall at the Murchison Performing Arts Center, 2100 Interstate 35E. To purchase tickets, call 940-369-7802 or visit www.thempac.com.

Among the most anticipated is the UNT Symphony Orchestra concert on Friday night, under the baton of Maestro David Itkin.

UNT Symphony Orchestra

With faculty guest artist Adam Wodnicki. 8 p.m. Friday at Winspear Hall. Tickets cost $10 for adults, $8 for senior citizens and non-UNT students, free for UNT students.

Itkin said the symphony orchestra dove into a challenge in rehearsing Bela Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra for the first concert of the year. Commissioned in 1943 by the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s conductor, Serge Koussevitzky, the piece is among the composer’s most popular pieces.

“This is one of the masterpieces of the 20th century,” Itkin said. “It broke new ground technically, and is an enormous challenge for the conductor and the orchestra.”

Itkin described the Concerto for Orchestra as a “big” work with “an extraordinary range of emotional depth” and color.

“One of the challenges of this piece is to get past the technical demands and focus on the extraordinary range of emotional nuances,” Itkin said. “You have to move beyond that and reach those things and play it for what it is and not [have it] be a piece that becomes about the technical nuance.”

Bartok wrote the piece when he was in failing health and facing creeping poverty. For those reasons, Itkin said, it’s notable that the concerto isn’t morbid. Instead, it reaches for spiritual and emotional heights.

The student musicians haven’t struggled with the piece.

“In really big piece like this — yes, some of the musicians have played it before, but probably most have not — your task is to explore within your own instrumental capabilities and to explore as a group,” Itkin said. “It’s such a pleasure for me to watch these students have this experience. I think of conductors for whom I learned a piece, and I still remember those experiences. I remember them very well even now. With such talented students throwing themselves into this work, I think they’ll remember this experience as well.”

Itkin said performing Igor Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring for the first concert of the school year in 2011 spurred him to take a different approach to the orchestra’s academic year.

“I started by thinking you needed to slide into the more sophisticated repertoire, and ramp up for the really challenging music,” he said. “I was wrong. With students of this caliber, you dive right in with challenging music. You don’t ramp up to it.”

In addition to the Bartok concerto, the orchestra will perform Arturo Marquez’s Danzon No. 2 and Ludwig von Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4. Faculty member Adam Wodnicki will perform the piano solo.

“They love it,” Itkin said of students’ response to performing with faculty. “It’s really clear when a faculty member performs. After a performance, everyone comes up to the faculty guest and wants to talk about the piece.”

UNT Concert Orchestra

8 p.m. Oct. 3 at Winspear Hall.

Tickets cost $10 for adults, $8 for

senior citizens and non-UNT students, free for UNT students.

Conductor Clay Couturiaux will lead the UNT Concert Orchestra through three pieces, the highlight of which is Maurice Ravel’s arrangement of Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.

Pictures is Mussorgsky’s most popular work, and Ravel arranged the composition in 1922 for Serge Koussevitzky. Scholars and critics praise Ravel for bringing the colors out of Mussorgsky’s famous work.

The concert orchestra will also perform Anton Arensky’s Variations on a Theme of Tchaikovsky, Op. 35 and Robert Kurka’s Concerto for Marimba and Orchestra, Op. 34.

UNT Baroque Orchestra and Collegium Singers

8 p.m. Oct. 5 at Winspear Hall.

Tickets cost $10 for adults, $8 for

senior citizens and non-UNT students, free for UNT students.

These young but popular ensembles perform a concert titled “Early Music From France.” Performing on instruments designed and built to sound as they would have in the baroque era, the orchestra will perform as well as accompany the Collegium Singers in the music of Henri Dumont, Jean-Marie Leclair, Jean-Baptiste Lully, Jean-Philippe Rameau, Marin Marais and more.

Paul Leenhouts conducts the Baroque Orchestra and Richard Sparks directs the Collegium Singers.

UNT hosts the Dallas Symphony Orchestra

8 p.m. Oct. 9 at Winspear Hall. Tickets cost $20 for adults, $18 for seniors, UNT faculty and staff, and $10 for students and children.

The College of Music continues a 65-year partnership by hosting the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.

The program includes Hector Berlioz’s Roman Carnival Overture, Camille Saint-Saens’ Cello Concerto and Antonin Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 (From the New World).

Alasdair Neale conducts, and Dallas Symphony Orchestra principal cellist Christopher Adkins will be featured.

The final concert of the Festival of Orchestras comes at 4 p.m. Oct. 14, the night of the College of Music’s annual gala.

The centerpiece of the evening is “Symphony Meets Jazz,” which features symphonic music, jazz and American standards arranged by UNT faculty member Richard DeRosa. Gala patrons will also be treated to music by George Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein.

LUCINDA BREEDING can be reached at 940-566-6877. Her e-mail address is cbreeding@dentonrc.com .

 


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