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by Robert Rollin

COLTON-KendraThis past Saturday evening the Youngstown Symphony presented the season’s last classical music program with a twentieth-century musical emphasis. Soprano Kendra Colton served as guest artist for the evening in a performance of Samuel Barber’s poignant Knoxville: Summer of 1915.

American composer Samuel Barber was born in Pennsylvania to a well-to-do family. He was a prodigy who started studying composition, voice and piano at the Philadelphia Curtis Institute of Music at age fourteen. At twenty-five he won the prestigious American Prix de Rome and a Pulitzer travel abroad scholarship to study in Europe for the 1935-36 season. He later won two Pulitzer Prizes in the course of his illustrious career.

Knoxville: Summer of 1915, a southern American impressionistic musical portrait, sets a text by novelist, poet, and screenwriter, James Agee. Agee and Barber, both about the same age, suffered through the loss of their fathers around the same time, so Barber was drawn to this extended, flowery text that approaches poetic language and to its prose stream of consciousness. Read the rest of this entry »

by Robert Rollin

MartinLutherChurchYoungstownThis past Sunday the Youngstown Symphony, directed by Randall Fleisher, played its third Stained Glass Concert at the Martin Luther Lutheran Church, one of the city’s most beautiful places of worship. This new series, instituted last year, involves visits by a small orchestral core to area churches, and interaction with local ensembles. The stunning sanctuary gave the impression of an old European church, with a delicately latticed hand-carved wood altarpiece.

The concert amounted to a lively mélange of short classical chestnuts combined with some popular pieces. The afternoon’s highlight was the performance of Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus by the Martin Luther Lutheran Church Chancel Choir accompanied by the Youngstown Symphony. Anthony Ruggiero, choir director, had prepared the small group well. The lovely gentle choral sounds melded beautifully to the accompanying strings.

The performances of two movements from the Vivaldi Four Seasons were just as wonderful. Concertmaster Calvin Lewis served as the soloist for Spring, and the other violins divided to depict individual birdcalls. Read the rest of this entry »

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