New York Scandia Symphony to perform in NYC

Johan Halvorsen. Photo: wikimedia.org

On Thursday, May 28 at 1 pm Dorrit Matson, Music Director and Conductor, leads the New York Scandia Symphony in a program highlighted by the N.Y. Premiere of C.E.F. Weyse’s Symphony No. 6, and the U.S. Premiere of Gunnar Berg’s Hymnos (honoring the centennial of the composer’s birth).  Other works include Friedrich Kuhlau’s The Robbers Castle Overture and Johan Halvorsen’s Suite Ancienne.

This concert concludes Scandia’s 18th annual season of presentations in the popular “Concerts at One” series at Trinity Church, Broadway & Wall Street in New York City. A donation of $2 is suggested.  For information, call (212) 602-0747, or visit nyscandia.org.

Danish composer Christopher Ernst Friedrich Weyse (1774-1842) studied with Johann Abraham Peter Schulz in Copenhagen.  He served as organist at the Reformed Church and the Vor Frue Kirke, and in 1819, was appointed Court Composer.  Weyse wrote seven symphonies as well as pieces for solo piano, though he is probably best known for his vocal works (a setting of the Te Deum and the Miserere, a cantata, and numerous lieder and singspielen).   The Symphony No. 6 in C minor was written in 1798 and revised in 1800.  The instrumentation and style of the work have much in common with the early music of Schubert and Mendelssohn.  

Gunnar Berg was born to Danish-Swedish parents January 11, 1909, in St. Gallen, Switzerland.   His early teachers include Knud Jeppesen, Poul Schierbeck and Herman D. Koppel.   A pioneer of serialism in Denmark, Berg was greatly influenced in his 40’s by meeting such composers as Honegger, Messiaen and Stockhausen.  He is considered to have written the first Danish serial music, a Suite for cello, in 1950.  Berg spent many years living in Paris and died in Switzerland, which, together with his unflagging modernism, has perhaps prevented him from achieving the degree of recognition in Denmark he deserves.  The Danish firm Edition Svitzer is taking part in the Gunnar Berg centennial by publishing some of his scores for the first time. Berg was active in the Danish resistance movement in 1940-45.  According to author Jens Rossel, “Working with people on the run made a strong impact on Gunnar Berg, and some folk melodies presented to him by musical refugees gave inspiration to two compositions – ‘Variations on a Lithuanian Dain’ for piano and ‘Hymnos’ for strings, both composed in 1946.  ‘Hymnos’ is based on a Yugoslavian folk melody ‘Draga moja’ (My Dear).  One doesn’t hear the tune, only short motives and fragments, and the slow rhythmic structures are guided by the second dominated chords – which do not create a sound of dissonance.  The fundamental mood of the composition is primarily characterized by a dark, solemn, resigned, introvert gesture.”  

Daniel Friedrich Rudolph Kuhlau (1786 – 1832) was born in Uelzen, Germany.  In 1810 Napoleon’s troops invaded Hamburg and Kuhlau fled to Copenhagen, where he soon became a Danish citizen.  During his lifetime, he was known primarily as a concert pianist and composer of Danish opera, but he also wrote a piano concerto, other works for piano, string quartets and quintets, violin sonatas, numerous compositions for flute, several operas, and incidental music.  Beethoven, whom Kuhlau knew personally, exerted the greatest influence on his work; and Kuhlau introduced much of the German master’s music to Copenhagen audiences. 

Johan Halvorsen (1864-1935) was born in Drammen, Norway.  He was an accomplished violinist from an early age, receiving his musical education in Kristiana (now Oslo) and Stockholm.  Halvorsen was a concertmaster in Bergen, member of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, concertmaster in Aberdeen, Scotland, professor of music in Helsinki, and conductor of the theatre orchestra at Den Nationale Scene in Bergen, before becoming concertmaster and then principal conductor of the Bergen Philharmonic.  In 1899 he was appointed conductor of the National Theatre in Kristiania, where he remained until his retirement in 1929.   Halvorsen’s compositions were a development of the national romantic tradition as exemplified by Edvard Grieg (whose daughter he married).  He wrote an operetta, choral music, three symphonies, numerous orchestral compositions (including much incidental music), and music for concert band, as well as a string quartet and many works for violin and piano or viola.     

An exceptional orchestra in residence at historic Trinity Church, the 46-member New York Scandia Symphony has delighted New York audiences with its warm and vibrant tone, a lovely clarity of expressive detail, and innovative and imaginative programming.  The orchestra has a valuable mission as well: a commitment to presenting music by Classical, Romantic and Contemporary Scandinavian composers.       

Music Director and Conductor Dorrot Matson is a native of Copenhagen, Denmark.  Acclaimed for her performances of Scandinavian music, Ms. Matson has a vast repertoire of European and American masterpieces and an expanding list of performances in concert and theater.  Her performances are broadcast frequently on National Public Radio and local radio stations.  Ms. Matson holds degrees in conducting and musicology from the University of Miami, the Royal Danish Academy of Music and the University of Copenhagen.  Her numerous awards include a Fulbright Fellowship, the American Scandinavian Society of New York Award, the Italian State Scholarship, the Denmark-American Fund Prize, and the American Women’s Club Award. Matson and the New York Scandia Symphony have recorded four CDs on the Centaur Records label, including two Carl Nielsen discs.  Reviewing a recent Bernhard Henrik Crusell CD,  Fanfare magazine commented: “The New York Scandia Symphony is tonally strong, poised, and plays with all the confidence one would expect from a handpicked ensemble.”  

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