Fall 2007

Concert Poster

Fall Concert 2007

Sunday, November 18 • 3:00 PM, PAC

The Cal Poly Symphony begins its new season with a new collaboration and new music! The Amelia Piano Trio, known nationally for its championing of new music and its energetic work with young musicians, will give the West Coast premiere of Daron Hagen’s Orpheus and Eurydice: Concerto for Violin, Cello, Piano and Orchestra. The program begins with Howard Hanson's Mosaics, a lyrical, unique take on variations, and ends with Beethoven's powerful Symphony No. 5.


Hanson: Mosaics
Hagen: Orpheus and Eurydice: Concerto for Violin, Cello, Piano and Orchestra
Beethoven: Symphony No. 5

Program Notes:

Daron Hagen - Orpheus and Eurydice: Concerto for Violin, Cello, Piano and Orchestra (2006)

  1. Eurydice and Orpheus
  2. Orpheus' Lament
  3. Orpheus in the Underworld\
  4. Orpheus Looks Back

This concerto is an opera without words for Piano Trio and Orchestra which tells the story of the fated lovers Orpheus and Eurydice.

The first movement, Eurydice and Orpheus, introduces us to our characters and celebrates different aspects of their happy life together. The piano plays the role of Orpheus; the solo violin and solo cello together play the role of Eurydice. The narrative is comprised of a theme and ten variations. The “theme” is really a sequence of chords, timbres, and melodic motives rather than a traditional melody. Much like an overture to an opera, this movement provides the harmonic and motivic language for the concerto / opera to follow.

The first two variations feature rolled chords in the piano — Orpheus strumming his lyre. The third variation introduces a melody over the chords; this melody is associated with Eurydice. The fourth variation places Orpheus in the piano and Eurydice in the violin and cello soloists. Variation five fragments the theme, while the sixth variation introduces “added tones” to the chords before the seventh variation blossoms with a clearly-recognizable statement of “Eurydice’s Song” in the solo trio. The good-natured sparring of the couple in variation eight settles into a cozily domestic ninth variation. The movement ends with the trio alone, recapitulating in their purest form the chords presented at the beginning by the orchestra.

The second movement, Orpheus’ Lament, is an aria in the form of a rondo. The trio as a unit portrays Orpheus in this movement. In the first (A) section, Orpheus sings in the solo strings in a pan-diatonic harmonic language of his love and sorrow. Orpheus expresses his sorrow and anger in the second (B) section, moving into the solo piano and expressing himself in brittle, octatonic-scale based music. The orchestra returns Orpheus to the musical language and mood of the first section. A drum enters as he begins getting worked up again. The soloists shift once more into octatonic language as Orpheus determines to save Eurydice from the Underworld. The movement climaxes with Orpheus approaching the River Styx and gazing across into the Underworld.

Orpheus in the Underworld begins with Orpheus strumming his lyre in the piano as the strings in the orchestra portray Charon, singing as he rows him across the river. Orpheus hears Eurydice’s song in the violin, answers her in the cello. He follows the sound of her voice until at last he finds her and they sing a joyous duet over a fervent chorale built from the first movement chords. At this point, the piano is Orpheus’ lyre once more, the violin is Eurydice, and the cello is Orpheus’ singing voice. Orpheus has been warned not to look back at Eurydice as he leads her out of the Underworld. The movement ends at the moment that Orpheus does just that.

The final movement, Orpheus Looks Back, takes place after Orpheus has returned to the world of the living. In the piano, he sings a nostalgic love song; he tries to convince the Gods to release Eurydice. He hears Eurydice in his memory singing in the solo strings, turns to music itself for strength and solace as the elemental sequence of pure chords return in the orchestra. He rapidly works his way through the series of emotions dealing with loss: anger, denial, bargaining, finally, acceptance as the trio plays alone. The lovers are finally united in Orpheus’ heart and soul. The concerto / opera ends with Orpheus calmly looking forward, anticipating the day when in the Afterlife he and his Great Love will at last be reunited.

Commissioned by the Amelia Piano Trio, the first orchestras to play this piece are the Chicago Youth Symphony (Allen Tinkham), the California Polytechnic State University Orchestra (David Arrivée), the Corvallis Youth Symphony (Charles Creighton), the Hartt Symphony Orchestra (Christopher Zimmerman), the El Paso Youth Symphony (Benjamin Loeb, and the Wesleyan University Orchestra.

— Daron Hagen, 2007


Tickets for the concert are $10 to $12 for the public, $8 to $10 for seniors and $6 for students. They are on sale at the Performing Arts Ticket Office from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays. To order by phone, call SLO-ARTS (756-2787).

Patrons who buy season tickets to four Music Department events through the Performing Arts Ticket office will receive a 10 percent discount; a 15 percent discount is given to those who buy tickets to five or more events.

The concert is sponsored by Cal Poly's Music Department, College of Liberal Arts and Instructionally Related Activities program. For more information, call the Music Department at 756-2406.

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