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wcfsymphony → Landscape Iowa

March 2, 2013 7:30 pm → Great Hall, GBPAC

Jonathan Chenette – Rural Symphony [2000]
Copland – The Tender Land, Suite
Dvořák – ‘American’ Suite with Northern Iowa Youth Orchestra

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Iowa’s Landscape at its best in splendid concert featuring WCF Symphony
by George F. Day
Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier
March 5, 2013

It was a snow-weary crowd that attended Saturday’s Waterloo-Cedar Falls Symphony Orchestra concert. Their spirits soon soared, however, as they watched and heard the perfectly splendid show that unfolded before them.

Artistic Director Jason Weinberger designed and directed a far-from-ordinary concert. This one consisted of music, images and words reflecting the atmosphere of rural America, its charm and its beauty. Scott Cawelti narrated poetry by James Hearst and other writers and Iowa landscapes photographed by Bill Witt appeared on a huge screen above the orchestra. The audience was quickly awed.

Three pieces were on the program. The first, Rural Symphony, a new composition by Jonathan Chenette, was designed to reflect through music ‘the rural life and rural landscape’ of turn-of-the-century Iowa. The three movements were ‘Row Crops and Livestock,’ ‘Milking Time’ and ‘Becoming Prairie.’ Overall the piece, aided by Witt’s stunning beautiful photographs and Cawelti’s poetic readings, did conjure up a sense of country atmosphere.

Surely this music must owe more than a small degree of its sounds and moods of nature to the work of Aaron Copland, the acknowledged master of what might be called ‘American landscape music.’ It was Copland’s The Tender Land Suite we heard next. Originally composed as an opera with a Midwestern farm in spring as the setting, the suite is an orchestral concert reduction of the opera, and a perfect choice for this program. The music is very much in Copland’s distinctive idiom: Flowing harmonies, smooth and dream-like rhythms and joyful tonal effects. It is optimistic in mood and on this occasion was splendidly performed by the ensemble under Weinberger’s sensitive direction.

The final work was Antonin Dvořák’s Suite in A, sometimes called the ‘American Suite.’ For this, the WCFSO was joined by the members of the Northern Iowa Youth Orchestra. Like other pieces on the program this composition could easily be seen as a hymn to the natural beauties of Iowa landscape. Certainly it is typical Dvořák in its shape and sound, and lively dance-like tunes and bold crescendoes, as well. There may well be, as has been suggested, some Native American rhythms in the finale (Allegro) movement. Again we were treated to some of Bill Witt’s drop-dead beautiful pictures of Iowa at its best. And some of Iowa’s best writing and speaking, too, courtesy of Hearst’s poetry expertly delivered by Cawelti.

This concert was a perfect antidote for the winter blues, as could easily be sensed in the audience’s mood as they filed out into the frigid March night.

Note: All reviews are edited for spelling and length