Omaha Symphony presents Dvorak festival at the Holland

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January 24th, 2013

Old World meets New World in a new concert event with the Omaha Symphony.

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This weekend the Omaha Symphony is doing something it hasn’t done in recent memory: a two-concert festival celebrating the life and music of a single composer, Antonin Dvorak. Both concerts have entirely different programs, allowing audience members to immerse themselves in Dvorak’s music. One highlight from the first concert is Dvorak’s “Cello Concerto,” featuring soloist Carter Brey, the principal cellist in the New York Philharmonic.

The Omaha Symphony’s Music Director, Thomas Wilkins, says the “Cello Concerto” is not simply a technical showpiece.

“It’s as full of journey as any symphonic work of his. This is another thing about Dvorak: you always feel as if you’ve gone somewhere. Every cellist I’ve done this with realized this piece is bigger than we are.

Wilkins also says the soloist doesn’t make the emotional journey alone.

“The serious emotions, it covers them deeply; it’s the cello speaking, but he pulls the entire orchestra into the conversation – not just the conversation, into the mix, emotionally.”

Also on Friday night’s concert is Dvorak’s “Carnival Overture,” one of Maestro Wilkins’ favorite works to conduct. He says the “Overture” is a high-energy spectacle that takes off right from the start.

“The rhythm is so you have a short note and then a long note, and then rapid, quick notes after that is like tripping, it’s like falling forward. It’s a different sensation, it’s more stable in the very beginning. But Beethoven Five is the same way, it starts with three notes that trip forward, so right away there’s this propulsion.”

Also on Friday’s Concert is Dvorak’s Symphony No. 6. Saturday night’s concert features selections from the “Slavonic Dances,” the tone poem “The Wood Dove,” and the well-known Symphony No. 9, titled “From the New World.” Wilkins points out that while Dvorak was inspired by the land and music of the Americas, he couldn’t help but toss some Old World flavor into the mix.

“You take, for example, the music that we think was inspired by Harry T. Burleigh and negro spirituals in the second movement. You get to the middle of the second movement, you’re all of a sudden in the middle of Spillville, IA or Czechoslovakia – that’s totally Dvorak. He can’t escape being himself.”

The Omaha Symphony’s two-night Dvorak Festival is this Friday and Saturday in the Holland Center. Both concerts feature different programs.

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