Sunday, October 22, 2023 at 3:00 pm

Hoffman Auditorium, Bruyette Athenaeum
University of Saint Joseph, West Hartford

The Farmington Valley Symphony Orchestra kicks off its 2023-2024 Season with Symphonic Songs and the CT Premiere of Afro-British composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Overture to Song of Hiawatha. Music Director Jonathan Colby describes the work as “an ethereal work that shows a great mastery of delicate orchestration and lyrical lines”. In recognition of ten years of Music Director Colby’s tenure, the program will feature Dvorak’s Symphony No. 5 in F Major which was programmed on Mr. Colby’s first season with the FVSO. Don’t miss one of Dvorak’s most dramatic and symphonic masterworks with the full forces of the FVSO.

COLERIDGE-TAYLOR: Overture to The Song of Hiawatha

SAINT-SAENS: Piano Concerto No. 2, Mvt I

              Soloist: Philip Larson, Hartford Music Teachers Alliance Concerto Competition Winner

DVORAK: Symphony No. 5 in F major, Op. 76


Program Notes

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875 – 1912) Afro-British
Overture to the Song of Hiawatha, Op. 30, No. 3 (1899)

First Performance: October 6, 1899, Norwich Triennial Musical Festival, Norwich Cathedral, UK. The composer conducting.

FVSO Performance: FVSO Premiere

Coleridge-Taylor’s great admiration for Henry Longfellow’s poem The Song of Hiawatha led him to set the work to music in a three part cantata; Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast, The Death of Minnehaha and Hiawatha’s Departure. The overture was written as a stand alone work to open a performance of Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast at the Norwich Triennial Musical Festival. By this time, Coleridge-Taylor had established himself as a dynamic and up and coming composer in the British musical field. He was highly respected by his colleagues such as Sir Arthur Sullivan and Sir Edward Elgar. Today’s performance is not only a FVSO premiere, but most likely a Hartford and Connecticut premiere of this work.

Camille Saint-Saëns (1835 – 1921) French
Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 22 (1868)

First Performance: December 13, 1868, Concert Populaire in the Salle Pleyel, Paris, France. Arthur Rubenstein, conductor, the composer as soloist.

FVSO Performances: 05/15/93 (Eells), 04/29/00 (Eells), 11/10/12 (Eells)

By 1868, Saint-Saëns was nearing the height of his career and international recognition. He used his fame to promote the influence of French music against the ever dominant German juggernauts. The piano concerto was initially unsuccessful, Saint-Saëns had been rushed to complete it in only three weeks and the first performance with him as the soloist was not entirely well received. However, it has since become one of the most played and beloved concertos by Saint-Saëns. Unusually framed with a slow first movement, followed by a devilish scherzo and fiery finale.

Antonín Dvořák (1841 – 1904) Bohemian/Czech
Symphony No. 5 in F Major, Op. 76 (1875)

First Performance: March 25, 1879, Prague, Bohemia (Modern day Czechia). “Filharmonie” Orchestra, Adolf Cech, conductor.

FVSO Performances: 12/03/83 (Eells), 12/14/14, (Colby)

A personal note from the Music Director:

I consider this to be one of the greatest examples of symphonic literature. Dvorak aptly displays his mastery of orchestration, melody and drama in the orchestral medium. Its four contrasting movements take the listener from a green pastoral landscape to a rambunctious and grandiose finale. I was introduced to this symphony while serving as Assistant Conductor to the Pioneer Valley Symphony Orchestra under Paul Phillips. I am thrilled to be performing this work for the second time with the fine musicians of this orchestra. Thank you for this small, but meaningful indulgence.

Soloist Biography

Philip Larson is a 16 year old high-school student who has been deeply passionate about music his entire life. In addition to being a high level performer, he is an avid listener of a very broad range of genres and styles as well as an adept improviser on the piano. He studies piano and harp at The Hartt School with Malgosia Lis and Susan Thomas and violin privately with Aaron Packard. He sings with Chorus Angelicus’ Senior Choir where he serves as Choral Scholar. He is a member of Connecticut Youth Symphony as both a violinist and harpist. This past summer he participated in Music Adventure, a two week chamber music festival in Tuscany.