Orchestra brings familiar, classical music to audiences

Baylor Symphony Orchestra in Jones Hall. File Photo

Baylor Symphony Orchestra in Jones Hall. File Photo
Baylor Symphony Orchestra in Jones Hall.
File Photo
By Connor Yearsley

Tonight, the Baylor Symphony Orchestra concert will feature classic works as well as a newer work by Dr. Scott McAllister, professor of composition at Baylor.

The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. in Jones Concert Hall in the Glennis McCrary Music Building.

The program will begin with the second suite from Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet.” The seven-movement suite was extracted from the ballet score, that Prokofiev composed in 1934.

“There are sections in it that sound like a big film score,”  said Stephen Heyde, director of orchestral activities and conductor of the Baylor Symphony Orchestra. “There are sections in it that sound like ‘James Bond.’”

He said the piece contains some very lyrical, beautiful melodies as well as some extremely dramatic moments. “It’s a very, very deep love story,” he said.

Heyde also said the suite presents certain challenges to the orchestra. He said the piece’s motor-like underpinnings can’t speed up or slow down, and that the solo lines are very exposed.  The second suite is the most popular of the three suites extracted from “Romeo and Juliet.”

“I love the music,” Heyde said. “I like the collection. It has a good mix of music. It’s extremely powerful music too, and emotionally grabbing.”

After intermission, Dr. Sandor Ostlund, associate professor of double bass, will perform McAllister’s concerto for double bass and orchestra. The three-movement concerto was composed in 2010. “I’m thrilled to be playing the concerto,” Ostlund said. “It was written for me.”

He said the composition process was a collaboration between McAllister and himself. They worked together, consulting each other about what they wanted or didn’t want.  “It’s sort of like a suite that’s tailored to you,” Ostlund said.

Ostlund said he premiered the concerto in October 2010 with the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra, which commissioned the piece. “It’s exciting to be able to do it here at Baylor,” Ostlund said.

The second movement of the piece was written first. McAllister said it was written in memory of Beth Newdome, a violinist in the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra who died of breast cancer.

McAllister said the piece contains beautiful, lyrical moments as well as aggressive, angular moments.

Heyde said the second movement of the concerto is introverted and contemplative, while the first and third movements are dance-like. He said the piece is rhythmic, fascinating and haunting.

Ostlund said the piece contains lots of rapid flurries of notes, that are difficult to play on the bass. He said that’s much easier for a clarinet player, like McAllister, to play.

“We made a joke,” Ostlund said. “Never ask a clarinetist to write a bass concerto.”

Heyde said there’s some speculation that it’s the most difficult bass concerto ever written.

Ostlund said the piece makes frequent use of the high registers of the bass, which will be amplified for the concert. He also said the piece is jazz-inspired and that there are many times he’s soloing on top of the orchestra’s groove.

Ostlund said he still gets nervous when he performs, but that adrenaline helps him. “Ideally you need that nervousness,” he said.

Both Heyde and McAllister said they think very highly of Ostlund’s ability as a musician. “He’s a phenomenal player,” Heyde said.

McAllister said there are certain things he hopes the piece accomplishes. “My hope is to illuminate the talents Sandor has as a premiere soloist,” he said. He hopes to communicate a range of emotions to the audience, including happiness, sorrow and awe.

Last on the program is German composer Richard Strauss’ tone poem “Don Juan.” The piece, composed in 1888, follows the story of the legendary womanizer after whom the piece is named.

Heyde said parts of the piece are dashing, brash and conceited, reflecting the character of Don Juan, while other parts are tender. He also said certain parts sound mocking. “There’s nothing more comical than a guy who thinks he’s a ladies’ man,” Heyde said.

He said the piece takes and breaks barriers.  “The Strauss is considered to be one of the most challenging pieces for orchestra of all time,” Heyde said.

Heyde said everyone’s worked extremely hard for the program. “It’s been a team effort, that’s for sure. It’s been a whole school effort,” he said.

Ostlund said he’s also excited for the program. “They’re incredible pieces, serious, big, monumental pieces,” he said.

The concert is free and open to the public.