This year, the 200th anniversary of the birth of Felix Mendelssohn, the composer’s work is being showcased on stages throughout the world, much to the satisfaction of audiences who are deeply familiar with many of his melodies — his famous “Wedding March,” for instance, and the melody of the Christmas carol “Hark, The Herald Angels Sing.”
But it wasn’t always so. Compositions by the Jewish-born Mendelssohn were generally considered second-rate as a result of criticism by German composer Richard Wagner until recent years, when contemporary music directors and conductors began to champion his work, rehabilitating Mendelssohn’s reputation and restoring him to the first tier of the world’s greatest composers.
During its first subscription concert of the 2009-2010 season, the Bryan Symphony Orchestra at Tennessee Tech University will perform Mendelssohn’s “Symphony No. 4, ‘Italian,’” as well as works by Mozart and Rossini. The program begins at 3 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 11, in TTU’s Wattenbarger Auditorium.
Tickets are $28 for adults, $24 for seniors 65 and up, and $8 for students. Call the Bryan Symphony Orchestra Association office at 931-525-2633 for advance reservations. While reservations are limited, tickets are generally available at the door on Sunday as subscribers release their seats to the reservation line. The ticket window, located in the lobby of the Bryan Fine Arts Building, opens at noon on Sunday.
“In our small way, we’re a part of a major effort to re-assert Mendelssohn’s reputation, which was decimated by the late 19th-century composer Richard Wagner and others,” said BSO Music Director Dan Allcott. “Wagner was dismissive of the work of Jewish composers, not withstanding the fact that Mendelssohn was baptized in the Lutheran church at the age of 6. Unfortunately, overt anti-Semitism was prevalent even in polite society for centuries, and especially in the late 19th century after Mendelssohn’s death, reaching its most tragic expression in Hitler’s Germany 65 years ago.”
Despite his unfairly diminished reputation, Mendelssohn’s melodiousness and craft are popular with audiences today – and there’s a reason for that, said Allcott.
“Since the middle of the past century, we’ve come to see how wrong Wagner’s characterization of Mendelssohn was, how important a composer he is. Much like Mozart, he died young, but wrote voluminously and with facility. Although Mendelssohn was not a groundbreaker like Beethoven, he took an existing form, the four-movement classical symphony, and composed exquisite and beautiful music.”
The Oct. 11 program also includes Mozart’s “Clarinet Concerto in A Major” and the overture from Rossini’s “Barber of Seville.” Joining the BSO as the soloist for the Mozart concerto is Spanish clarinetist Jose Franch-Ballester, who has been noted as one of the most promising clarinetists of his generation. In The New York Times, he’s been described as a “natural onstage” who plays with “technical wizardry and tireless enthusiasm,” while The New York Sun characterizes him as “sweetly nostalgic, breathily passionate, and busily humorous.”
His appearance with the BSO is the first of three guest performances this season by young international musicians.
The Bryan Symphony Orchestra, a member of the League of American Orchestras, is the only professional symphony in a rural area of Tennessee. Wattenbarger Auditorium is the concert hall of the Bryan Fine Arts Building on the TTU campus. Learn more about the BSO’s programs by visiting its web site at www.bryansymphony.org.