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Romantic masterpieces performed Feb. 12 at Appalachian

BOONE—Concertgoers will be treated to a range of musical emotions during a Feb. 12 performance by the Appalachian Philharmonia from Appalachian State University’s Hayes School of Music. The free performance begins at 2 p.m. in Broyhill Music Center’s Rosen Concert Hall.

The Philharmonia, comprised of faculty and student musicians, is led by conductor Cornelia Laemmli Orth. Guest soloist is violist Margarita Vargas-Machuca, one of the winners of the Hayes School of Music’s Concerto-Aria Competition. Vargas-Machuca is a graduate student in the music school.

The theme of the concert is “Romantic Masterpieces” with works by Bedrich Smetana, Miklos Rozsa and Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky.

The program opens with “Three Dances” from Smetana’s comic opera “The Bartered Bride.”

“The three dances are joyful and a lot of fun to perform and to listen to,” Orth said. “‘Polka’ is a statement of joy and happiness in life. Smetana often composed in the style of Bohemian folk songs and his ‘Furiant’ is based on a vigorous Czech dance performed by men.” The final dance, “Dance of the Comedians,” is noted for its fast-paced tempo.

Vargas-Machuca and the Philharmonia will perform the first movement from Rozsa’s “Concerto for Viola and Orchestra.”

Born in Budapest, Rozsa wrote the film score for the 1939 movie “The Four Feathers” and “The Thief of Bagdad.” He moved to the U.S. during World War II and wrote scores for “Spellbound,” “Ben-Hur” and other movies.

The concerto was written in the early 1980s after a friend suggested that Rozsa depart from his typical film scores. It was premiered in 1984 by Pincas Zukerman. It is a highly romantic composition and not “hair-raising” like some other 20th century pieces, Orth said.

The final composition on the program is Tchaikovsky’s “Symphony No. 5, Op. 64, E Minor,” which Orth said was one of her favorite symphonies.

“It was written in 1898, which was a very dark time for Tchaikovsky. He had a lot of doubts about himself,” she said. The composer of “Swan Lake,” “Sleeping Beauty” and “The Nutcracker” was dealing with writer’s block prior to composing his fifth symphony.

“The entire symphony is highly emotional and represents Tchaikovsky’s inner torment, suffering and fighting with himself,” Orth said.

The symphony is based on a theme from the Russian Orthodox Easter hymn “Christ is Risen,” which is introduced by a clarinet in the first movement. The theme is repeated in various forms throughout the symphony.

The second movement is highly dramatic and features a famous horn solo. The third movement is a light waltz reminiscent of a 19th century ballroom scene.

“After going through a lot of emotional torment, pain and struggles, at the end of the fourth movement Tchaikovsky brings back the main theme of the symphony in a triumphant finale that explodes into joy with good winning out over bad,” Orth said. “As musicians, we have to experience these emotions ourselves so that the audience feels them as well. It’s not a piece that you can just put away and forget about. It lives in us and sometimes tortures us.”

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