CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – In the late 1850s, the German composer Johannes Brahms was taking a stroll through the Bavarian countryside when he was suddenly struck by the lush green hills and snow-covered Alps surrounding him. He wanted to recreate the immense beauty of this land through music, so he set to work composing a short symphony serenade for nine players, using the unique folk rhythms and melodies of the area.
“It was beautiful music, drawn from his surroundings,” Dr. Gregory Wolynec, APSU associate professor of music, said.
The work, known as Brahms’ Serenade No. 1, is typically performed by a full orchestra, but at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 30, APSU’s Grammy-nominated Gateway Chamber Orchestra will present the work as the composer originally conceived it.
“What the full orchestral version loses is some of the intimacy of the individual players, the individuals lines, which are beautiful in the chamber orchestra version,” Wolynec, the orchestra’s conductor, said. “The music loses some of its charm with a full orchestra.”
The Brahms composition will be the centerpiece performance of the Gateway Chamber Orchestra’s upcoming concert, Pastoral Soundscapes. The program will begin in the APSU Music/Mass Communication Building’s Concert Hall with a performance of composer Bohuslav Martinu’s Nonetto. That piece, like the Brahms, represents musically the eastern European landscapes that inspired its composer.
“He is a Czech composer whose music is becoming more and more known outside of what was Czechoslovakia,” Wolynec said. “It’s a more 20th century interpretation of Czech dance rhythms and melodies, Eastern European sounds. He also spent time in Paris, and his music serves as a fusion of those cultures – Czech and French.”
The program then veers off into a wildly original work, Orphée Sérénade, by the Pulitzer Prize-winning American Composer William Bolcom.
“This particular piece was inspired by serenades of Mozart,” Wolynec said. “But Bolcom uses a technique called quotation. He literally takes quotations from classical pieces and puts them directly into modern compositions.”
The resulting work features six movements, ranging in style from German Expressionism to Broadway musicals to ballet scores from Stravinsky.
“The high point has the woodwinds playing a charming dance from the classical period, and then seemingly to interrupt them, the strings come in and play a different sort of dance,” Wolynec said. “At which point, I get out of the way and the two groups are instructed to compete with each other.”
The concert follows the Orchestra’s typical “three-legged stool” approach to programming, with a work by a known composer (Brahms), a masterwork by a composer often overlooked by history (Martinu) and a piece by an American composer (Bolcom).
“The idea for this concert, Pastoral Soundscapes, comes from landscapes in painting,” Wolynec said. “These are essentially landscapes for the ear.”
Tickets to the Jan. 30 Pastoral Soundscapes concert are $15 for adults, $10 for students and military, $30 for a family of four and free to APSU students with a valid student I.D. Tickets are available at the MMC Box Office, which opens at 4 p.m. on the day of the show.