Holoman returns to conduct Dvorak, Tchaikovsky with UCD Symphony

By From page A9 | May 28, 2013

Courtesy photo

Courtesy photo

The UC Davis Symphony Orchestra will wrap up the 2012-13 season with a 7 p.m. concert Sunday, June 2, in Jackson Hall. And as is always the case in June, when the orchestra plays the final program of the season, there will be moments of recognition for those students who are about to leave UCD and go out into the world.

“This year, the traditional June ‘family concert’ has morphed into a kind of end-of-year hoedown, where we focus on the outstanding work of our students and salute those who’ll get their degrees a few days later,” said D. Kern Holoman, conductor emeritus of the UCD Symphony, who will conduct two of the three pieces on the program.

“Two superb graduate students will make their debut with the orchestra — Alex van Gils, who composed the ‘cosmic dancer, blade of fire’ (which won this year’s UCD Symphony Orchestra Composition Award) and Jonathan Spatola-Knoll, who will conduct it. Spatola-Knoll, a Ph.D. student in musicology, will earn his master’s degree in conducting en route, as a conducting student of Christian Baldini, Jeffrey Thomas and myself,” Holoman said.

Holoman added: “This will be our last opportunity to enjoy the work of graduating concertmaster Shawyon Malek-Salehi, who will perform the first movement (Allegro moderato) of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concert0,” with Holoman conducting.

“From Day One on this campus, Shawyon has been the kind of ‘ideal student’ — productive, contributing and always growing — that makes the University of California proud,” Holoman said. “No one quite knows yet what we will do without him.”

Tchaikovsky wrote his Violin Concerto in 1878, at a Swiss resort on Lake Geneva, where he was getting back to composing after a brief, impulsive and unhappy marriage. Whatever the composer’s personal circumstances, there is little hint of inward anguish in the Allegro moderato movement, which bright and energetic, sometimes swaggering, with a virtuosic part for the soloist throughout.

Because the piece runs a generous 19 minutes and concludes with an impressive flourish, it is not uncommon for audiences to respond with applause when the Allegro moderato movement ends. There are, after all, a number of shorter concertos that, in complete form, cover a similar amount of time, and the final measures of the movement do convey a sense that things are wrapping up.

Holoman also will conduct the Seventh Symphony of Antonin Dvorák (D-minor, Op. 70). Holoman conducted the same piece with the orchestra several years ago, and said he’s looking forward to having another go at it: “The Dvorák D-minor is on my all-time favorites list.”

The piece dates from 1884-85, when the composer was trying to decide whether his music should reflect a more “international” approach (i.e., music that reflected the dominant German tradition) or whether it should feature more of his own Czech heritage. The symphony was commissioned by the Royal Philharmonic Society in London, so it was a prestigious assignment. Dvorák responded by writing a symphony that clearly was intended to stir the audience with its musical grandeur and sometimes tragic sensibility.

“It is one of the great panorama symphonies,” Holoman said, “with bold evocations of landscape and outdoor vistas that strongly foreshadow another of my favorites, Prokofiev’s Fifth.”

Several critics regard the Dvorák Seventh as the composer’s greatest, though the Dvorák Ninth (“From the New World”) is performed more frequently.

Tickets are $12 general, $6 for students, available at www.mondaviarts.org or 530-754-2787.

Holoman will be standing in for Baldini, the regular conductor, who will be in the United Kingdom guest-conducting the Scottish Chamber Orchestra in a program that includes the Haydn Symphony No. 102, the Weber Clarinet Concertino, the First Symphony of Beethoven and Mozart overtures.

“I’m honored to be covering for the young maestro, and we’ll all be watching and waiting for dispatches from the Highlands,” Holoman said.

— Reach Jeff Hudson at [email protected] or 530-747-8055.

Jeff Hudson

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