JCSO concert (3/8)

Free admission with Milligan ID

The Johnson City Symphony Orchestra welcomes Chinese pianist Chu-Fang Huang, who will perform Richard Strauss’s “Burleske for Piano and Orchestra in D minor” for their March concert. Also on the program under the direction of Music Director and Conductor Robert J. Seebacher are the “Auf der Jagd—Polka Schnell” by Johann Strauss, Jr. and Hector Berlioz’s “Symphonie Fantastique.” The concert is sponsored by Jim and Sandy Powell.

Chu-Fang Huang began studying the piano at age 7. She made her U.S. recital debut at 15 in the La Jolla Music Society’s Prodigy Series. She has won prizes in international piano competitions and her debut recitals at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall and the Kennedy Center in the Young Concert Artists Series garnered rave reviews in the press. She has performed throughout the U.S. and internationally. A graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music under Claude Frank, she received her master of music degree and artist diploma from the Juilliard School under Robert McDonald. Ms. Huang is the artistic director of the Ameri-China International Music Association, which she founded to provide opportunities for young Chinese pianists to study in the United States. She is a Steinway Artist and resides in New York City.

Johann Strauss, Jr., studied bookkeeping publicly and music in secret. He established his own orchestra to perform both his own music and that of his father, Johann Strauss. When Johann, Jr., got married, he turned over the orchestra to his brothers and turned to composition; his “An der schönen blauen Donau” (familiarly known as the “Blue Danube Waltz”) was immediately successful, as were his operettas such as “Die Fledermaus.” The material in “Auf der Jagd” comes from one of his operettas, “Cagliostro in Wien.” Its popularity has far outlasted that of its source! The title translates to “On the Hunt,” so the use of a pistol as a percussion instrument is quite fitting.

Strauss had just turned 21 when he composed his “Burleske,” which imitates the music of both Brahms and Wagner. Strauss wrote the piece for pianist Hans von Bülow, who said he could not play it because his hands were too small; the final dedication was to Eugène d’Albert, who premiered the work in 1886. The piece includes references to the D-minor and B-flat major piano concertos by Brahms and to Wagner’s “Tristan und Isolde” and “Die Walküre.” This is one of the first examples of a composer using the burlesque technique, which had been strictly a literary and theatrical technique in the past.

The “Symphonie Fantastique” is a program symphony, one of those great works that listeners usually enjoy because it has a clear storyline that they can follow. The program symphony was a Romantic-era invention that drew on the audience’s interest in the supernatural and on the somewhat seamy side of life. Rather than sticking with the traditional four-movement sonata cycle that had been the basis of the symphony for nearly 200 years, composers could create works that kept the general idea of the symphony as a large orchestral genre but that were freed from the formal restraints by virtue of the need to make the form fit the story being told. Berlioz very helpfully included descriptions of each movement to guide both performers and audiences. His subtitle for the work is “An Episode in the Life of an Artist” and his notes tell us that we should think of his descriptions like the words of an opera.

The March 8 concert begins at 7:30 p.m. at the Mary B. Martin Auditorium of Seeger Chapel at Milligan College. Individual concert tickets are $35, $30 for seniors (65+), and $10 for students. More information is available online at www.jcsymphony.com or by calling the symphony office at 423-926-8742. The symphony accepts Master Card, Visa, and Discover. Free bus service is available from Colonial Hill, leaving at 6:15 p.m.; Maplecrest and Appalachian Christian Village, at 6:30; and City Hall, at 6:45 p.m. Concerts are partially funded under an agreement with the Tennessee Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts.