RELEASE: Omaha Symphony musicians present adventurous repertoire in final chamber concert
Stravinsky’s epic “The Soldier’s Tale” takes audiences on a journey steeped in Russian folklore
Concert also features Francaix’s Octet and Jessie Montgomery’s “Strum”
OMAHA, Neb., March 30, 2021 — Musicians of the Omaha Symphony take the stage in an explosive, animated and engaging evening of chamber music for the final time this season. Featuring some of the most brilliant chamber music of the 20th and 21st centuries, this evening is sure to fascinate and delight audiences no matter their previous experience with classical music. Two important figures of the 20th-century French composition scene, Francaix and Stravinsky, bookend a string quartet from one of the United States’ most vibrant working composers, Jessie Montgomery.
Stravinsky’s “The Soldier’s Tale” will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 8 at the Holland Performing Arts Center Peter Kiewit Concert Hall. The concert features Francaix’s Octet and Jessie Montgomery’s “Strum” along with its namesake work, Stravinsky’s “The Soldier’s Tale.”
The final chamber music concert in a series of three from the musicians of the Omaha Symphony, Stravinsky’s “The Soldier’s Tale” features some of the orchestra’s best in various combinations. Included in the program are Susanna Perry Gilmore, Anne Nagosky and Holly Piccoli, (violin), Brian Sherwood (viola), Paul Ledwon (cello), Nate Olson (double bass), Rosario Galante (clarinet), Jim Compton (bassoon), Scott Quackenbush (trumpet), Jason Stromquist (trombone) and Derek Dreier (percussion).
“The repertoire on this program in particular showcases some really excellent instrument-specific writing for each individual instrument,” said Omaha Symphony Vice President of Artistic Administration and section bass Dani Meier. “As much as we love the glorious textures of an 80-person symphony orchestra, Stravinsky’s “The Soldier’s Tale” and Francaix’s Octet include some magnificent writing you’d never hear otherwise; Jessie Montgomery’s “Strum” is intimate and compelling in equal measure, delivering quite the emotional impact.”
Thursday, April 8 at 7:30 p.m.
Holland Performing Arts Center Peter Kiewit Concert Hall
JESSIE MONTGOMERY: “Strum” for String Quartet
STRAVINSKY: “L'Histoire du soldat” (The Soldier's Tale)
The program begins with French Neoclassical composer Jean Francaix’s Octet for clarinet, horn, bassoon, two violins, viola, cello and bass. With Francaix’s death in 1997, an era of 20th-century French music that included the likes of Poulenc, Milhaud, Ibert, Auric, and others came to a close. These composers revolutionized chamber music composition, particularly celebrating the idiosyncrasies of woodwinds and brass instruments; instead of using these instruments to add supporting color, as was often done, these composers gave special voice to them within the context of chamber music that was deeply inspired and specific to the character of each individual instrument.
Francaix’s Octet was commissioned in 1972 by the Vienna Octet. Francaix self-deprecatingly joked that this work was simply a “stop-gap” piece to fill in time – indeed, it is written for the same instrumentation as Schubert’s Octet and was commissioned to be performed on a program alongside this work. Nevertheless, Francaix dedicated it formally to “the memory of Franz Schubert.” It’s a charming and playful work that also includes glimpses of immense beauty and French eccentricities that can be traced back to a wide range of influences including Stravinsky and Erik Satie.
“Strum” is the only work by a living composer on the evening’s program – written in 2008, New York-based composer and violinist Jessie Montgomery originally wrote this work for string orchestra but later adapted it for her own ensemble, Catalyst Quartet. The Washington Post described “Strum” as “turbulent, wildly colorful, and exploding with life,” as is much of Montgomery’s music – her music is often a reflection of her experience growing up in New York in the late 1980s and early 1990s at the intersection of art, culture, and social justice. Her music pulls inspiration from spirituals, improvisation, jazz, hip-hop and poetry making for a sound that is deeply American and of the moment.
The program finishes with one of the most important works in the chamber music repertoire, Stravinsky’s “The Soldier’s Tale.” Written against the backdrop of World War I, Stravinsky was hunkered down in neutral Switzerland and feeling isolated from his native Russia. Coming off the heels of his wildly successful but generously orchestrated ballets “Firebird,” “Petrushka” and “Rite of Spring,” Stravinsky was looking to create a work that was equally engaging but for a smaller ensemble that could be nimble on its feet. His deep interest in Russian folklore continued off the heels of these grand ballets and translated into smaller works—this period also gave us the opera “Renard.” The timeliness of this performance of “The Soldier’s Tale” is uncanny; the piece originally premiered to enthusiastic audiences in 1918 just before the outbreak of the flu epidemic, which halted this great work’s tour and Stravinsky’s hope of it becoming a financially lucrative touring venture.
Stravinsky teamed up with his friend and writer C.F. Ramuz to create the music and libretto for “The Soldier’s Tale,” which follows a Russian soldier returning home from war. Along the way, he encounters the devil in several deceptive forms. The violin serves as a metaphor for the soldier’s soul, as the devil consistently tries to buy it from him along his journey. In a series of scenes, the soldier faces off with the devil and often wins but is ultimately defeated. Stravinsky’s score is brilliant and engaging, including some of the most innovative writing and interesting orchestration as one can find in the chamber music repertoire. It is a favorite to perform among musicians.
Virtual Pre-Concert Lecture
Audiences are invited to tune into a virtual pre-concert lecture hosted by KVNO’s Chris Allen at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 7. Allen will join Omaha Symphony musicians Anne Nagosky, Nate Olson and Derek Dreier for a discussion on the program’s music, the history of the works audiences will hear, their experiences as musicians, and more. Tune in on Facebook and YouTube at facebook.com/omahasymphony and youtube.com/omahasymphony.
Tickets for Stravinsky’s “The Soldier’s Tale” start at $20. Tickets can be purchased by visiting www.omahasymphony.org, through the Ticket Omaha app or by calling Ticket Omaha at 402.345.0606. Performance dates are subject to change. In the event of performance changes or cancellations, the Omaha Symphony will email ticket holders to inform them of new dates and ticketing options. Patrons with questions may email email@example.com. The Omaha Symphony also regularly posts performance updates at omahasymphony.org, along with the Omaha Symphony’s Twitter, Facebook and Instagram pages. Patrons can sign up for the latest updates at omahasymphony.org.
Public Health Information
Performances at the Holland Performing Arts Center feature physically distanced seating and will only be seated at a maximum of 30 percent capacity. All patrons will be required to complete a health screening questionnaire prior to accessing their mobile tickets via the Ticket Omaha app. Masks are required at indoor Omaha Symphony performances. The following changes have been implemented within the venue:
- Enhanced Cleaning & Sanitation - Electrostatic technology disinfecting large common areas, enhanced sanitizing of high touch surfaces with hospital grade disinfectant and hand sanitizing stations throughout the venue.
- Heating and Cooling System – Upgrades to air handling units includes bipolar ionization filtering out viruses through ventilation.
- Staff Precautions – Staff and volunteers are required to complete a health screening upon entrance to the building, wear face masks and receive temperature checks.
- Touchless Experience – Tickets are accessible via the Ticket Omaha app. Tickets can also be printed at Will Call. Program notes will be delivered digitally.
Find the most up-to-date public health information at omahasymphony.org/public-health.
The Omaha Symphony is a non-profit organization that presents more than 100 live orchestral performances from September through June. In addition to Masterworks, Symphony Pops, Symphony Rocks, Movies, Symphony Joslyn, and Family series concerts, the Omaha Symphony’s nationally recognized education and community engagement programs touch the lives of more than 40,000 people each year. For tickets or information regarding the Omaha Symphony, call 402-345-0606 or visit omahasymphony.org. Programs, artists, dates, times, prices, and availability are subject to change