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Anne Manson to Conduct Academy’s Chamber Orchestra

Saturday's concert will feature a program of four works, by Ives, Vasks, Stravinsky and Haydn.

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Pēteris Vasks is a Latvian composer of growing reputation.

Of fairly recent coinage, the Music Academy of the West‘s Chamber Orchestra already has achieved enviable permanence in the summer schedule.

This year’s Chamber Orchestra concert, at 8 p.m. Saturday at First Presbyterian Church, at State and Constance streets, will be conducted by Anne Manson, who was music director of the Kansas City Symphony (1999-2003) and who has been gathering bouquets of praise in guest appearances throughout the world.

The concert Manson will conduct has a program of four works: Charles Ives’ atypical — that is, haunting and uncranky — The Unanswered Question; Pēteris VasksCantabile Per Archi for string orchestra (1979); Igor Stravinsky’s Basel Concerto in D Major (1946); and Fraz Joseph Haydn’s Farewell Symphony No. 45 in F-sharp minor.

The Unanswered Question, was written in 1906, one of two contemplations — the other being Central Park in the Dark — and subtitled by Ives, A Contemplation of a Serious Matter. In its original scoring — for a string quartet, woodwind quartet and solo trumpet — it was not published until 1940. Meanwhile, Ives had been working out an arrangement of chamber orchestra, which was premiered at Juilliard in 1946. It is a very quiet and tranquil work, and very lovely. The piece made a surprising and highly effective appearance on the soundtrack of Terence Malick’s 1998 film of the James Jones novel, The Thin Red Line.

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Conductor Anne Manson will lead the Academy Chamber Orchestra in a diverse program.
Vasks is a Latvian composer who cites Lutoslawski, Penderecki and Gorecki as major affinities, and Mahler, Sibelius and George Crumb as influences. Most commentators also have detected more than a trace of the influence of the the Estonian mystical minimalist Arvo Part. Inevitably, Vasks comes off as eclectic, but there is an underlying structure of individual personality.

He wrote Cantibile in 1979, when he was 33. The anonymous musicologist on the Latvian Music Web site calls it a “euphonious outpouring for string orchestra that utilizes, as the composer says, only the white notes of the piano.” Vasks says the work embodies “a feeling of ecstasy for the beauty of nature.”

Stravinsky’s Basel Concerto in D should not be confused with his Violin Concerto in D. It was composed on a 1946 commission from Paul Sacher to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Basel Chamber Orchestra, hence the nickname. The key tends to oscillate between major and minor. The great musicologist Bernard Jacobson finds the work “admirably taut in rhythm.”

The Haydn symphony is famous for its last movement, where the orchestra departs the stage in twos and threes, leaving only a fiddle or two to play the final measures and blow out the candles, but the whole work bears the stamp of the master. It is the perfect union of means and ideas and, like everything Haydn wrote, it never stales, no matter how many times you hear it.

Tickets are $42 and may be purchased at the door, one hour before the concert, or by calling 805.969.8787 or faxing an order to 805.969.4037. For more information, call 806.969.8787 or visit www.musicacademy.org.

Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor.

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