Livermore-Amador Symphony opens its 57th regular season with “Winter Dreams” at Livermore’s Bankhead Theater on Saturday, Dec. 7, at 8:15 p.m. Conducted by Music Director Lara Webber, the concert will feature: Mozart’s “Three German Dances,” including “The Sleigh Ride;” Saint-Saens’s “Carnival of the Animals” with narrator Michael Wayne Rice; and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 1 “Winter Dreams.”
“The music of Mozart puts us in the holiday spirit with his ‘Three German Dances’ that feature charming sleigh bells,” Webber said.
Mozart loved to dance and wrote a lot of music for dancing, including many compositions while serving as Imperial Chamber Composer in Vienna. He wrote “Three German Dances” in 1791, a very productive year for him but also the year in which he died on December 5 from illness at age 35.
Each of the three dances employs different instruments, with the violin being the only instrument present in all three. The first dance features violins and trumpets while the second one uses woodwinds with the violins. Lively sleigh bells appear in the third dance, which has quite a different style from the first two, in addition to woodwinds, trumpets and violins. Many of Mozart’s dance music was written for formal balls in Vienna. Listening to “Three German Dances,” one can imagine a brightly lit ballroom with the jingling of sleigh bells on horses and carriages in a snowy courtyard announcing the arrival of elegantly dressed dancers.
Next, we turn to Saint-Saens’ beloved “Carnival of the Animals.” Rich with lyricism and invention, this “Grand Zoological Fantasy” is much more than animal imitation. Its humor is surprisingly human, particularly when paired with the famously clever wit of poet Ogden Nash.
“Saint Saens’ inventive and expressive ‘Carnival of the Animals’ is a delight for all ages,” Webber said. “It features the cock-a-doodle-doo of roosters and hens, the hee-haw of donkeys, the shimmering slippery magic of fish, a royal lion, an elegant swan, kangaroos, cuckoos, elephants, and tortoises. Narrating the performance is actor and director Michael Wayne Rice, known to Livermore audiences through his wonderful work with the Livermore Shakespeare Festival. Two talented young pianists, Daniel Mah and Hailing Wang, will join the orchestra as soloists.”
Tchaikovsky’s groundbreaking first symphony, full of endless melodic inspiration evokes the beauty and isolation of a wintry landscape.
“Tchaikovsky struggled so mightily with his first symphony; he believed at one point it might kill him, he was so exhausted from lack of sleep. The pressure surrounding this milestone was enormous, but we hear none of that struggle in this brilliant music,” Webber said. “Infused with Russian folk song, the architecture of the music is clean and clear like the bright sparkle of new snow. He creates uniquely beautiful themes and endless expressive melodies. There is a deeply nostalgic slow movement, a bright scherzo with a waltz in the middle, and a grand finale that builds in excitement right to the end. It’s a gem, often overlooked in favor of his more famous later symphonies.”
At 3 p.m., immediately preceding the Livermore Holiday Parade, Livermore-Amador Symphony will present a free Family Concert at the Bankhead Theater. The afternoon performance will be geared toward families with children, featuring Hanukkah and Christmas music as well as the “Carnival of the Animals.” Michael Wayne Rice will narrate, pianists Danial Mah and Hailing Wang will accompany the symphony, and the Valley Dance Theatre will perform selected dances from their upcoming performance of “The Nutcracker” with the orchestra. Following the program, children may participate in the Instrument Petting Zoo—a hands-on experience in which they can meet the performers and play some instruments. Although the afternoon concert is free, tickets are required and may be obtained from the ticket office.
The evening concert begins at 8:15 p.m. Webber will provide brief commentary during the concert in lieu of a prelude talk. The Symphony Guild will host a post-concert reception in the lobby. Tickets range from $12 to $36. Visit www.livermoreamadorsymphony.org, or lvpac.org.