The Breckenridge-based National Repertory Orchestra will present a performance titled “The Muse & The Poet” with conductor Carl Topilow today at the Breckenridge Riverwalk Center.
Today’s concert features a wide variety of orchestral repertoire, from the classical period with Haydn’s Symphony No. 31 in D Major to the 20th century Americana music of Aaron Copland in “Quiet City.”
Copland originally composed “Quiet City” for a play of the same name by Irwin Shaw. The play, according to Copland, was “a realistic fantasy concerning the night thoughts of many different kinds of people in a great city.” Unfortunately, the play was a flop, and his score would have been buried in the repertoire if it hadn’t been for his friends, who urged him to recast it as a concert piece for solo trumpet, English horn and string orchestra. This combination of the mellifluous trumpet, pastoral English horn and lush string chords creates a rich tapestry on which to paint a picture of an idyllic Americana cityscape.
Franz Joseph Haydn composed the earliest work on the program, Symphony No. 31 in D Major, in 1765. It is nicknamed the “Horn Signal” symphony “because it gives a prominent role to an unusually large horn section,” said Douglas Adams, CEO of the National Repertory Orchestra. “At least it was large for the time. His orchestra usually consisted of no more than 16 or 17 players. For Symphony No. 31, Haydn had four horn players, 25 percent of the entire orchestra.”
Haydn was one of the most popular composers of the Classical Era; often called “Father of the Symphony,” he wrote 106 symphonies in his lifetime.
The muse and the poet
Featured in this concert are violinist Hanna Cooper and cellist Sarah Markle, soloists on “La Muse et le Poete,” by Camille Saint-Saens. The French composer described his work as “a conversation between the two instruments rather than a competition between two virtuosi.” Indeed, the two string players interweave gorgeous melodies as the orchestra backs them.
Cooper, the co-principal second violin of the National Repertory Orchestra, began her studies at the age of 7. She is currently a student of David Updegraff at the Cleveland Institute of Music, where she received the Dr. Jerome Gross Prize in Violin. An avid orchestral musician, she often plays with both the Erie Philharmonic and Firelands Symphony. This is her first summer at the NRO.
Markle, co-principal cello of the NRO, is a graduate of the Orchestral Performance Program at the Manhattan School of Music, where she studied with Alan Stepansky. She received her bachelor’s degree from the Peabody Conservatory at Johns Hopkins University, where she received the 2010 Peabody Alumni Award for Highest GPA. Markle has performed on multiple occasions with Miami’s New World Symphony and substitutes with New Haven Symphony. Last summer, she attended Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, Calif.
The work following “La Muse et le Poete” is also from the Romantic Era, although with a different national flavor: Antonin Dvorak’s Czech Suite in D Major. The lively, five-movement work draws from folk idioms and dances Dvorak discovered in his homeland; the bagpipe drones in the opening movement are unmistakable. The polka, romanze and sousedska (a rather slow Bohemian dance in three-quarter time that has a calm, swaying character and is usually danced in a pair) are among the dances featured in the work.
Before the concert, the Breckenridge Second Saturday Gallery Walk galleries will present a reception showcasing both traditional and modern art from local and international artists. Concertgoers will be able to visit the art galleries and meet the owners before the concert. In collaborating with the National Repertory Orchestra, the Art Gallery Walk provides residents and visitors with the opportunity to see two components of the Breckenridge art scene together at one event.
“The Muse & The Poet” is dedicated to Connie Gruber.
“Connie was an amazing person and so loved by her friends at the National Repertory Orchestra,” said Julie Chandler, director of marketing and development for the National Repertory Orchestra. “We have chosen this concert to honor Connie, which feature an art show presented by the Breckenridge Second Saturday Gallery Walk galleries, because she was a lover of the arts.”
Gruber, a former resident of Keystone, died on March 24. She was past executive director of the Keystone Neighbourhood Co. and ended her working career doing part-time work for the National Repertory Orchestra and the Lake Dillon Foundation for the Performing Arts, both as a marketing consultant. After retiring, she volunteered at the National Repertory Orchestra and the Dillon Amphitheater.
Gruber loved the Colorado outdoors. She was always involved with athletics and enjoyed bicycling, running, kayaking and hiking. Donations honoring Gruber can be made to The National Repertory Orchestra, P.O. Box 6336, Breckenridge, CO 80424.
“Connie tackled her career goals with enthusiasm and spirit and will be remembered as a good leader with strong communicative skills,” Chandler said. “She was a compassionate woman with wisdom and courage.”
Amy Skjerseth is the marketing and public relations intern with the National Repertory Orchestra.