Omaha Symphony Showcases Mendelssohn


May 8th, 2014

Omaha, NE — It’s a weekend packed with flowing melodies and violent emotions.


FelixThe next Omaha Symphony program is this weekend and opens with the “Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by a young Felix Mendelssohn. Guest conductor David Hill says that Mendelssohn was a child prodigy to rival Mozart.

“This is an extraordinary gift mankind for a 17-year-old,” Hill said.

Next on the program is the “Violin Concerto”, also by Mendelssohn. Hill says that right from the first notes, melodies pour out of the violin.

“But what does he do? He just gives the orchestra, strings only a bar-and-a-half of *sings* what is gonna happen? Suddenly, here comes the soloist with this soaring, marvelous melody,” Hill said.

Hill points out the genius of Mendelssohn is not just in the melodies, but in the way the concerto is put together.

“The unique aspect of this pieces is the way he ties in all three movements,” Hill said. “That he does so brilliantly, presumably not because he wanted to stop the audience coughing between all the movements, maybe, who knows? But also because he had a really clear intention, and make sure people were wrapped by it the whole time.”

Also on the program is the “Symphony No. 1” of British composer William Walton. Maestro Hill says it was written after the disastrous end of a relationship.

“It’s all about a love affair that has gone wrong, I mean seriously wrong: tempestuous, turbulent, whatever you want to describe it,” he said. “This was something that he was absolutely distraught by. He was a very angry person over it. So he pour this whole thing out in music, and that was the only thing he could do.”

That anger and intensity leads to some incredibly difficult music to perform. While the first movement bears the brunt of Walton’s drive, the second matches it in emotional content.

“The second movement is a scherzo, and he says ‘con malitzione’, ‘with malice,’” Hill said.

With the third movement, Walton’s animosity gives way to remorse.

“This music is so flowing, beautiful, melodic, and deeply moving – that is the moment of regret,” he said.

Originally Walton only completed three movements. His friends encouraged him to write a fourth, which he did after entering a new, happier relationship. However, the fourth movement still has echoes of the earlier turmoil.

“Sibelius 5, and the sort of hammer blows at the end,” he said. “You don’t quite know when it’s going to end, you’re sitting at the edge of your seat, thinking, ‘when is this going to end?’, and I think it’s just a reminder…”

The Omaha Symphony’s next Masterworks program is this Friday and Saturday, May 9 and 10 at the Holland Center. Bother performances begin at 8 pm, and more information is available at

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