Allentown Symphony ‘Inside the Score’ unveils world premiere
If you’ve ever wanted to know how a classical piece of music is created, developed and brought to the concert stage, you won’t want to miss “Inside the Score: A New Cello Concerto” by Matthew Quayle, with the Allentown Symphony Orchestra featuring cello soloist Jameson Platte, 7:30 p.m. May 23, Miller Symphony Hall, Allentown.
“Matt Quayle, the composer, is good friends with Jameson Platte, our principal cellist,” says Diane Wittry, Allentown Symphony Orchestra Music Director and Conductor.
“In spring 2017 [April 11, 2017], Jameson was featured in the ‘Arts at St. John’s’ [at St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, Allentown] and Matt was his accompanist on piano.
“At that recital, they premiered the first movement of a cello concerto written for cello and piano. Even at that point, it was a work in progress,” Witry explains.
The first movement is part of “Concerto for Cello and Orchestra” that the Allentown Symphony will premiere May 23 following a discussion with Quayle, Platte and Wittry and the audience.
Quayle, who has a doctorate in composition, is head of the music program and assistant arts professor of music at the New York University campus in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates. Platte is Allentown Symphony Assistant Principal Cello.
“After the Arts at St. John’s, Matt and Jameson approached me to see if the ASO could do a grant application that Matt would apply for through NYU Abu Dhabi to finish the performance and do the reading session with Jameson and Matt.”
The grant was applied for about one year ago. Jameson was notified last fall that the grant was approved.
“Originally, a private reading sesson was planned,” says Wittry. “We thought it was such an interesting project that we’d open it to the public to see how a new piece of music gets born.”
“Concerto for Cello and Orchestra” has four movements: ”Ballade” (originally called “Cantabile” when performed for “Arts at St. John’s”); “Hallelujah Paraphrase” (described by Wittry as “a very rhythmic movement”); “Nocturne” and “Epilogue.”
“We’ll demonstrate a few sections of it and perform the full work,” Wittry says.
“It’s for people who want to learn more about the compositional process. Since he [Quayle] originally wrote the piece for piano, how does he decide what instruments perform what instrument lines and what colors of sounds he’s looking for?”
The May 23 performace of the 25-minute piece will be recorded as an archival copy for the Allentown Symphony by Damian Righi.
“This is a good type of program for people of all ages. Students are certainly invited and will have an eye on taking something apart and putting it back together again.”
Wittry received the score for “Concerto for Cello and Orchestra” at the end of April. Copies of the score were distributed to Allentown Symphony musicians at the May 4 concert. An estimated 65 orchestra members are expected to perform the work.
“What I like about this project is that it opens the door for other composers to come to us as long as the funding is available,” says Wittry.
“There’s just so much new music being written so I would like to do more chamber music and orchestra works.”
For the 2019-2020 season, the Allentown Symphony will perform a new work by Chris Theofanidis, on the Yale University faculty, as a companion piece for Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons.” The Allentown Symphony is partering with the Wildlands Conservancy for the March 2020 concert. “He’s [Theofanidis] going to the Wildlands Conservancy and it’s going to be inspired by nature,” says Wittry, who hopes a chamber version of the piece is performed at the Emmaus area conservancy.
Under Wittry’s leadership, the Allentown Symphony has a commitment to new music by living composers, including Michael Torke, “Bright Blue Music,” and Jennifer Higdon, “Blue Cathedral,” in its September concert.
In April 2020, a new work by Eric Ewazen, “Concertina for Organ and Orchestra,” commissioned by Allen Organ in honor of Wittry’s 25th anniversary as Allentown Symphony Music Director and Conductor, and Allen Organ’s 50-year commitment to the Allentown Symphony.
Wittry has had her own compositions premiered in Allentown Symphony concerts, including “Mist,” “Lamentoso,” “Concerto for Homemade Instruments and Orchestra” and “Ode to Joy Fanfare,” the latter because of the 250th anniversary of Beethoven, is to be performed by the Denver Philharmonic and in Munich, Germany.
The Allentown Symphony, under Wittry’s tutelage, also commissioned “Fanfares,” a project by five Lehigh Valley composers, and the “Pictures at an Exhibition” composers contest.
“I feel we’ve developed programming to connect with that creative spirit in the Lehigh Valley,” says Wittry.
Proceeds from the “Inside the Score” concert benefit ASO Education and Community Engagement programs, including El Sistema Lehigh Valley.
Tickets: Miller Symphony Hall box office, 23 N. Sixth St., Allentown; millersymphonyhall.org; 610-432-6715