Symphony plans local premiere of new Golijov piece

Glens Falls Symphony Orchestra music director Charles Peltz, left, loves nothing better than a good

Glens Falls Symphony Orchestra music director Charles Peltz loves nothing better than a good challenge. On Sunday, the orchestra will give the local premiere of Osvaldo Golijov’s new piece and perform Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4.

“The orchestra has never done the Tchaikovsky before, at least on my watch,” Peltz said from Boston, where he heads the internationally acclaimed Wind Ensembles of the New England Conservatory.

Fortunately, Golijov’s “Siderius” is known more for its atmosphere and mood than for being technically difficult, except for one particular rhythmic passage.

“I’m blessed with terrific players who can handle this,” he said.

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For Gazette music writer Geradline Freedman’s review of this show, click here.

Since Peltz took over the orchestra 11 years ago, standards have gone up and with those levels have come more adventurous programming. That’s part of how the orchestra’s executive director Robert Rosoff secured the 2005 world premiere of Joan Tower’s “Made in America” as part of Ford’s Made in America project. The Golijov work is also part of that program, which gathered 35 orchestras to co-commission the work with underwriting from the League of American Orchestras.

Other orchestras

Among the orchestras involved are those in Baltimore, Atlanta, St. Louis, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, which gave the world premiere last October. Although what Golijov was paid was not disclosed, Peltz said he estimated his fee at between $1,000 and $2,000 a minute of music.

The commission is to honor Henry Fogel, who is retiring as president and CEO of the League, and who happens to love Golijov’s music, Peltz said.

Golijov was born in 1960 in Argentina, studied in Israel with Mark Kopytman and received his doctorate at the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied with George Crumb and at Tanglewood with Lucas Foss and Oliver Knussen. He’s taught at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., since 1991. Over the years, Golijov has created a style that melds folk music, traditional Jewish and Christian liturgies and the Argentinian tango as developed by Astor Piazzolla into works that transcend all boundaries.

“Siderius,” which is supposed to mean a starry messenger, is inspired by a Galileo treatise that is about heavenly reflections, Peltz said. There are repeated string figures and a longer line that equates to a beam of light.

“The effect is of a slow moving arc with powerful moments. It’s an atmospheric piece. There’s nothing graphic,” he said.

(Interested in more Golijov? The Avalon Quartet is performing his “Tenebrae” at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington as part of the Close Encounters with Music series.)

Before the orchestra tackles the Tchaikovsky, however, Peltz decided to program Mozart’s “Impresario Overture.”

“It’s the most light of Mozart’s overtures and is meant to balance the bombast of Tchaikovsky, who was a Mozart devotee,” he said. “It’s almost hyper-cheery with a faux bravura. It starts out oh so seriously but that’s a charade. . . . It goes into a frothy figure that’s vivace. It’s terribly cute.”

As for the Tchaikovsky, Peltz said the orchestra handled the fifth symphony a few years ago very well. Since then, the string section’s dexterity has improved and he’s especially proud of his brass section, which will get to shine in the last movement. It’s the first movement that will be the toughest.

Difficult aspects

“It’s in 9/8, so there are two things that are happening in every measure: there is a long arc over all the beats, which have a rhythmic underpinning with a waltz sense. There is syncopation and a problem with flow,” he said. “The music must have a sense of lilt even as the key changes meander. It sounds simple but it’s hard to play and it’s long. It’s an epic narrative that goes and goes.”

The other three movements are straightforward and only require technical fluidity, Peltz said. If all goes well, the result will be very expressive, exciting, romantic and fiery.

“The piece is an audience favorite,” he said.

This concert is the last one in what Peltz said has been another good season.

“I’m very, very proud of the orchestra. I’m a very lucky person,” he said. “They’re always prepared. They can turn on a dime. They take it so seriously and have acquitted themselves with pride and artistry.”

Peltz is especially pleased by the continued audience support, which has concerts ending with cheers and he getting stopped in the street with plaudits.

“Sometimes I have to pinch myself,” Peltz said laughing.

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