By Joe Amarante
Orchestra New England’s 45th ambitious anniversary (or birthday, if you will) will be marked in a concert March 9 amid a season that follows the profound loss of the organization’s (Mary) Anne Mauro.
Mauro, who died in September 2018, “was everything to Orchestra New England — its driving spirit,” said maestro James Sinclair, “as a director, fundraiser, event planner, organizer, decorator, hostess and creative thinker.”
ONE’s 45th-year event — its 781st concert and featuring its 71st-73rd musical premieres, will include a memorial piece honoring Mauro. The concert will take place in Battell Chapel in New Haven. Former members of the orchestra have been invited to join the current orchestra members for festivities in New Haven.
Storied ONE founder and conductor Sinclair said in an email that “Russo’s Symphony No. 3 was written in 2015 and receives it first performance (at) our anniversary concert. It’s our 17th new piece from Joe, an ambitious, large piece with lots of attractive tunes and orchestration.”
Russo said it will be the first public performance of the symphony that he composed in 2015, a four-movement piece expressing strength, sadness, majesty and joy/happiness.
Those emotions match Russo’s feelings about the orchestra these days:
“I have played with Orchestra New England for many decades — it is a very special orchestra since the talented group not only excellently performs music but is also made up of dear friends who truly enjoy making music together. And this special musician connection ... has also spread to our audiences over the years...”
If Mauro and husband Jean Mauro were key figures, there’s one more who even looms larger, said Russo. That would be the Charles Ives scholar at the baton, Sinclair.
“I attribute this special orchestra and the beautiful connections it creates to the vision, talent and caring of its founder and music director James Sinclair,” said Russo.
Composer Bruce, said Sinclair, “is a longtime personal friend and friend of Orchestra New England. We premiered his wonderful opera ‘Americana’ back in 1985.”
Wesleyan University faculty member Bruce, in an email exchange, said he admired the playing of colleague Hoyle for years. “He is one of the best horn players I have ever heard, and Wesleyan and UConn are most fortunate to have him on their respective faculties. I have thought for years I would write a concerto for him, although I kept the idea to myself until Christmas 2016.”
Hoyle, in an email, said, “In the past few seasons, Neely has been on a whirlwind of composing and performing. During this very active time, he approached me and said that he would like very much to write a piece for Horn and Orchestra.”
They collaborated on sketches and ideas “so (Neely) would be able to decide exactly what would sound most characteristic on the horn. By December, he had a working copy of the piece ready.”
Bruce said “Rhapsody for French Horn and Orchestra” has shifts of mood and colorful touches of orchestration.
“Rhapsodies are typically pieces with lots of tunes, lots of changes of mood and tempo and free formal structures,” Bruce explained. “Think of the Liszt’s Hungarian rhapsodies, or, closer to home, George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.”
This is a virtuoso piece for the French horn, said Bruce, “and Robert Hoyle is handling its considerable difficulties like the consummate virtuoso he is. Fast, tricky passages; long soaring melodic lines; long, long notes; brilliant rips; blaring high notes — he does it all!”
Hoyle responds that “It is very challenging, but also very satisfying to play.”
The family-feel orchestra will close out the concert, writes Sinclair, “with a blockbuster performance of Beethoven’s original overture to his only opera, ‘Leonore Overture No. 2.’”
Beethoven revised the piece as “Leonore Overture No. 3,” explains Sinclair, then revised it wholly as Leonore Overture No. 1, and finally realized these works were over the top as an opera opener and penned his Fidelio Overture. “Leonore” is the original name of the opera; “Fidelio” the revised name.
“To me, for a concert piece,” said Sinclair, “the earliest overture is the best: it is a dramatic tone poem — Beethoven at his freest, most characteristic inspiration.”