GLENS FALLS — The Glens Falls Symphony Orchestra will present a program inspired by love and enchantment on Sunday, a perfect combination for anyone celebrating Mother’s Day.
But when music director Charles Peltz took a closer look at the repertoire, which includes Debussy’s “Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune,” Mozart’s Symphony No. 31 (“Paris”), and selections from Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet,” he realized that a bit of research on each composer was called for.
License for Debussy
“I always like to get the flavor of the time, their social contacts,” Peltz said. “Like when Debussy wrote for Diaghilev — the piece was written for Nijinsky (the celebrated ballet dancer with Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes), then you know that gave Debussy some type of artistic license.”
Diaghilev’s company was based in Paris and being the astute entrepreneur that he was, Diaghilev had a sense of what type of audience would want to come to his productions.
“It was a part of society who wished to be considered fashionable and who was attracted to the exotic of Russia and had an interest in Eastern things,” Peltz said.
Learning about this background also gave Peltz the direction on how to handle the music.
“I need to create this very free, almost stream of consciousness kind of thing,” he said.
Glens Falls Symphony Orchestra
WHEN: 4 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: Glens Falls High School, 10 Quade St., Glens Falls
HOW MUCH: $28, $25, $10 (students)
MORE INFO: 793-1348; www.theglensfalls symphony.org
The piece opens with a famous flute solo, which conjures the awakening of the faun.
“I’ll give the flutist (principal flutist Yvonne Hansbrough) complete freedom and then hold to the piece’s rhythmic structure,” Peltz said. “I’ll bring only a light touch of conducting as the flow evolves. It’s very sensuous. There should be no sense of beats – it needs a nebulous feel, but there’s a heartbeat that the audience won’t perceive. I’ll avoid gestures except at certain precise energetic points.”
Peltz will need a completely different technique to conduct Mozart’s symphony.
“It should feel precise,” he said. “It’s what happens between the notes and phrases.”
Mozart was 22 in 1778 and job hunting in Paris when he was commissioned to write a symphony for the Concerts Spirituels, a popular concert series in Paris. As such, he had to cater to the crowds. This meant including dance-like sections and extended writing for winds that were all preferences left over from King Louis XIV’s court, Peltz said. Although his symphony proved successful, Mozart was never very fond of the Parisians (see Alfred Einstein’s “Mozart His Character, His Work” Oxford University Press, 1965). For that reason and his probable discomfort in their society, Peltz said he billed him as “a stranger in the City of Lights.”
The selections from Prokofiev’s work, which was also to support a ballet, will allow Peltz and the orchestra to go all out in a grand, passionate style.
“It’s the icy passion of Prokofiev,” Peltz said. “It’s great passion, great love but with a darkness, a fatalism under all. But I don’t see it as sensuous. It’s more of varying degrees of brutality and of the absence of love.”
To accompany the music will be projected images of paintings, sketches and photos that are related to the story. Generally, Peltz said, he felt adding media like this detracted from the live music, but these images provided background and could augment the experience.
Because the day is also Mother’s Day, the Glens Falls Symphony Children’s Chorus will sing three madrigals to celebrate Williams Shakespeare’s 450th birthday, which was April 23. The texts are drawn from three of his plays: “Twelfth Night,” “Measure for Measure,” and “Much Ado About Nothing.”
The concert might seem longer than past concerts.
“But I loved the way the program sat on the page; the music was so different with so many styles,” Peltz said. “And the Prokofiev is a great hit. Even if the audience’s ears are tired by then, they’ll perk up when they hear his music.”