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Photo by Fernando Farfan in the Apt613 Flickr Pool.

Music for the season

By Alex Binkley on April 25, 2016

There are undoubtedly many ways to celebrate the arrival of spring with music. The Divertimento Orchestra delivered an enjoyable and inspiring tribute to the end of winter at its final concert of the season April 22 and 23.

It opened with Gaetano Donizetti’s Overture to Don Pasquale, a short piece that frequently changes tone and tempo, a perfect reminder of the capricious weather we enjoy in spring. It was followed by Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6, the well-known Pastorale complete with bird calls. Its smooth-flowing melody conjures up long walks in countryside released from the grip of winter. To wrap up, the Orchestra played four of Edvard Grieg’s Symphonic Dances, which again capture the rising personal spirits and fast changing weather of spring.

One of the joys of attending the Divertimento concerts is you can sit close to the orchestra and watch the more than 60 musicians play under the direction of Conductor Gordon Slater in a way that lets all the instruments be heard. No section of the orchestra is overpowering and its selections are challenging to perform, which gives the musicians a perfect opportunity to display their considerable talents. For the audience, it’s a treat to watch the presentation comes together under the conductor’s direction.

The four pages of notes prepared by John Worrall for this concert provide a wealth of background about the selections, which Slater adds to in his introductions.

The Donizetti piece was written for a love-story opera and the music matches all the froth, antics and excitement in the play. While not a well-known classical composer, he was a prolific one with 16 symphonies and 19 strong quarters among other accomplishments.

Beethoven is one of greats of classical music. He described the Pastorale as an expression of feelings more than tone painting. Sitting in a pew at L’Eglise Saint-Thomas-d’Aquin listening to the orchestra opens one to many possible images of what the music could be about. If you need ideas, Worrell includes notes on Beethoven in the program guide, describing the changing scenes he was trying to capture including a thunder storm and some country revelry.

Grieg considered the Symphonic Dances as one of his best works. Based on Norwegian folk music, it is lively but hard to imagine anyone being able to dance to swirling melodies. However it’s the type of music you’ll want to look up on the Internet or the local music store to listen to again.

After a summer break, Divertimento will be back in rehearsals for its fall concert on Nov. 11 and 12, 2016. Follow them on Facebook to learn more.