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Music

Westmoreland Symphony Orchestra's 'Musical Landscapes' mark unmistakable time and place

| Tuesday, March 13, 2018, 4:00 p.m.
William Caballero
Westmoreland Symphony
William Caballero

When the Westmoreland Symphony Orchestra presents a program called “Musical Landscapes” this weekend, it will feature compositions that are “unmistakable in time and place,” says music director Daniel Meyer. The pieces by American Aaron Copland and Czech Bedrich Smetana express a deep love of their homelands.

Meyer will conduct the show on March 17 in Greensburg's Palace Theatre. The program is Copland's “Appalachian Spring” Suite, Reinhold Gliere's Horn Concerto with soloist William Caballero, and three movements from Smetana's “Ma Vlast” (My Country).

Copland found his biggest and most enduring successes as a composer writing ballet music on American themes. He wrote “Billy the Kid” in 1938 and “Rodeo” in 1942, but received his greatest acclaim for the 1944 ballet “Appalachian Spring,” created for dance icon Martha Graham. It is the story of a wedding day at the beginning of the 20th century in a Pennsylvania Quaker community.

Meyer points out that Copland's working title was “Ballet for Martha.”

“When she suggested ‘Appalachian Spring' all of a sudden all these imageries, these beauties, including the Shaker tune ‘ 'Tis the gift to be simple,' crystalized to make it a child of its time,” he says. “The music embodies the spirit of a pastoral setting, a simpler time, a humble people who had a very distinctive way of living their lives.”

Copland won the 1945 Pulitzer Prize for his suite from the ballet, which is scored for full orchestra.

Gliere's Horn Concerto will provide contrast with the musical landscapes. It was completed in 1951 but its lushly romantic musical language evokes an earlier era. The performance marks the return of Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra principal horn Caballero to the Palace, where he played Richard Strauss' Horn Concerto No. 1 in 2006.

“The Gliere is serious work for the horn that provides the opportunities for long, sustained lines,” Caballero says.

The concert will conclude with the first three of six tone poems that comprise Smetana's “Ma Vlast.” The music is the composer's largest and most successful symphonic composition and expresses his deep love of his country through the sweep of its history.

The first movement, “Vysehrad” (The High Castle), begins with a solo harp evoking a bard of bygone days. The music portrays the 8th-century court of Queen Libuse, whose castle was on a rocky cliff. The next movement is “The Moldau,” which traces the Bohemian river from its sources through the countryside.

“Sarka” will bring the concert to an exciting conclusion as a woman and her troops takes vengeance on the men who betrayed her.

Mark Kanny is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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