The UC Davis Symphony Orchestra will wrap up its 2013-14 season at 7 p.m. Sunday, June 1, at the Mondavi Center, in a concert that will feature the Seventh Symphony of Ludwig van Beethoven, a prize-winning modern piece, composer Peter Lieberson’s “Neruda Songs.”
The concert also will feature “Four Lakes,” a new piece by UC Davis composer Philip Acimovic (a graduate student), and a performance of the final movement of the Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1, performed by Kuan-I Du, who was the winner of this year’s UCD Concerto Competition.
Conductor Christian Baldini, who ordinarily leads the orchestra, will be away, and four guest conductors will handle the baton, with Matilda Hofman, who is conductor of the Diablo Symphony in the Bay Area, leading most of the program.
Lieberson’s “Neruda Songs” will feature visiting soprano Tony Arnold, who has appeared at major new music festivals all over the world. Baldini said “Tony is a superstar. She was nominated for a Grammy, has sung in some of the most important festivals in the world and has collaborated with dozens of great composers of our time. She was also a colleague of mine in Buffalo (State University of New York), so she’s someone that both (my wife) Matilda Hofman and I know well. Since Matilda will also be working with Tony and the Empyrean Ensemble, it seemed like a great idea to have Matilda work with Tony and the UCDSO as well. Matilda will also be conducting a new piece called ‘Four Lakes’ by graduate student Philip Acimovic, and the finale of Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 with the winner of this year’s UCDSO Concerto Competition (Kuan-I Du).”
Mondavi Center audiences heard some of Lieberson’s “Rilke Songs” performed by the composer’s wife, mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson, during the dedication concert for Jackson Hall on Oct. 4, 2002, with the composer in attendance.
Soon thereafter, Peter Lieberson composed the “Neruda Songs” (using texts by Nobel Prize-winning Chilean poet Pablo Neruda) as a gift to his wife. The piece was co-commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Boston Symphony; both orchestras premiered the piece in 2005, with Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson singing. New York Times music critic Anthony Tommasini wrote “Every phrase of Lieberson’s (“Neruda Songs”) seems to have been crafted with his wife’s beautifully earthy voice in mind.” Sadly, Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson died (from breast cancer) in 2006, and Peter Lieberson was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2007. “Neruda Songs” was recognized with the Grawemeyer Award (including a $200,000 bonus) in 2008. But Lieberson’s health declined, and he died in 2011.
Hofman, who will conduct the performance of “Neruda Songs” by Arnold and the UCD Symphony, described the piece as “extraordinary — they are superbly rich, beautiful and eloquent settings.”
Hofman said that “In the first part of the program there will be a new work, ‘4 Lakes,’ by graduate composer Paul Acimovic, and an appearance by the winner of the university’s Concerto Competition, violinist Kuan-I Du, performing the third movement the Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1.” Hofman added that “Three graduate conducting students will be conducting Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony — a wonderful opportunity for them to work with an excellent orchestra.”
Baldini said: “I have been teaching (the Beethoven Seventh) to our three graduate student conductors, and they are ready for it. So the conductors will be Garrett Rigsby (1st movement), Isaac Pastor-Chermak (2nd movement) and Jonathan Spatola-Knoll (3rd and 4th movements).” The Beethoven will offer a chance for the grad student conductors to show what they can do with a classic work.
Baldini, for his part, will be back in Argentina — where he was born — on June 1. “I will be conducting an opera at the gorgeous Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires,” he said. “This is a world premiere by composer Oscar Strasnoy, based on Faulkner’s ‘Requiem for a Nun.’ It is a very powerful and dramatic piece.”
Baldini also has a busy summer ahead. “I will make my debut guest conducting the National Chamber Orchestra of Chile (doing Mozart’s Symphony No. 36, Schubert’s Symphony No. 3 and a new piece by Chilean composer Miguel Farías). And I’ll be composing a new piece for two pianos and two percussionists, co-commissioned by the Ensemble Berlin Piano Percussion and the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players (the piece will receive its world premiere in Berlin, Germany, in December 2014).”
Tickets to the June 1 concert are $12-$17 general, $8 for students, available at www.mondaviarts.org or 530-754-2787.