From Menuhin to OK Mozart: Music as Therapy Prevails

By Glenda Rice Collins

BARTLESVILLE, Okla. USA — “Music creates order out of chaos,” said the quotable virtuoso violinist, conductor and humanitarian, Yehudi Menuhin (1916-1999), whose centenary is celebrated this year.

As Oklahoma’s premier music festival, OK Mozart, Opus 32 now celebrates a year of unprecedented transition under the leadership of  OKM executive director Randy Thompson — the man who for years embodied the spirit of Mozart himself through costumed portrayals of the musical genius.

Dr. Thompson now serves as an OKM artistic director as well. In this capacity, he

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Daniel Hege, Randy Thompson and Anne-Marie McDermott  backstage

assembled a memorable “re-formation” program with an opening selection not listed in the June 18 program, for Saturday night’s OKM season grand finale concert at the Bartlesville Community CenterA Return Voyage from Europe to the Americas, with Tulsa Symphony Orchestra and principal guest conductor Daniel Hege, a resident of Syracuse, New York.

Added as “a tribute to the human condition,” and as reflection upon universal themes of human suffering, Edward Elgar’s Nimrod from his 14 Enigma Variations (1899), began with somber presence, progressing in stages to triumphant determination in the spirit of resounding hope.

DSC_5118Anne-Marie McDermott, featured later on the concert program as a returning OKM guest pianist, dazzled the BCC audience with her intense, instrumental pyrotechnics in George Gershwin’s mesmerizing Rhapsody in Blue for Piano and Orchestra. brilliantly performed by prodigious memory, without printed music.  “I feel freer that way,” she later remarked. “Rhapsody in Blue is a masterpiece.”

The June 18 concert was presented by Tulsa Bone and Joint, the Oklahoma Arts Council and National Endowment for the Arts.

The Eternal Quest: Seeking Peace & Progress

“Peace may sound simple – one beautiful word,” said Menuhin years ago, “but it requires everything we have, every quality, every strength, every dream, every high ideal…Music is a therapy. It is a communication far more powerful than words, far more immediate, far more efficient.”

The Nimrod variation was inspired by a friend of Elgar, August Jaeger, who kept him going forward through times of emotional and artistic struggle.

The OKM  “return voyage” program progressed through the transitions of  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart‘s Overture to La clemenza di Tito, K. 621, completed by Mozart during an illness which ultimately took his life three months after the opera premiered, — and on to Mendelssohn’s reformation  themes.

Felix Mendelssohn‘s Symphony No. 5 in D Major (1830), Op. 107 seems to further reflect the turmoil and uncertainty of changing times, eventually evolving into recurring themes in the last movement which echo the familiar Martin Luther (1483-1546)  hymn, A Mighty Fortress is Our God, a theme song of the Reformation. Luther began the Protestant Reformation in 1517.

According to OKM program notes, the symphony celebrates the 300th anniversary of the Augsburg Confession (June 25, 1530) the day on which Melancthon presented emperor Charles V with a summary of the tenets of the new Lutheran faith. Mendelssohn referred to it as his “church symphony.”*

From Reformation to Re-formation

While the Mendelssohn symphony is known as the “Reformation,”  masterpiece, Dr. Thompson refers to his OKM concert program selections as symbolic for this year of OKM “re-formation.”

Traditionally, the annual festival has hosted both the Amici New York Orchestra (under the baton of Constantine Kitsopoulos in recent years) and the Solisti New York Orchestra of the past, notably under the artistic direction of maestro Ransom Wilson, an OKM co-founder with Nan Buhlinger, an accomplished violinist who resides in Bartlesville.

The re-formation of OKM has involved a fond farewell to the majority of New York musicians who have, over decades as guest artists, developed many friendships with Bartlesville OKM regulars.  But with economic times, such as they are, the survival of OKM now depends on utilizing more Oklahoma-based talent, and, according to Thompson, “that means more money for Oklahoma musicians.”

Featured during the recent OK Mozart, Opus 32 international music festival season, June 11 – 18, 2016 were three Oklahoma orchestras performing for the main concerts with a pleasant balance of distinguished guest artists: the  Signature Symphony at TCC (with the OK Mozart College All-State Orchestra),  artistic director and conductor Andrés Franco; the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra, with principal guest conductor Daniel Hege; and the Bartlesville Symphony Orchestra,  with Lauren Green, music director and conductor.

A highlight of the grand finale OKM concert June 18 was the ebullient and engaging Latin flavor of Danzon, No. 2 by Arturo Márquez (b. 1950), scored for full orchestra, and totally uplifting in spirit.

The eight Danzones composed by Márquez fuse together the dance music of Cuba and the Veracruz region of Mexico. Danzon No. 2 is said to be the most popular, made internationally famous through performances by the passionate conductor Gustavo Dudamel and the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela.

Márquez, who explores interdisciplinary and mixed-media  works, studied piano, violin, trombone and music theory at the Mexican National Conservatory of Music, then music composition in Mexico, Paris and the California Institute of the Arts. It appears that he was inspired by his father, a mariachi musician in Mexico and Los Angeles.*

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Dr. David Carter, clarinet soloist

The Tulsa Symphony Orchestra performed also on June 15 in the OKM Classical Gold: Visionary Masterpieces program at the BCC.  Featured clarinet soloist, Dr. David Carter, excelled in Mozart’s Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra in A Major, K. 622, which displayed, with virtuosity, how Mozart in the year 1791 excelled at balancing the wide-ranging forces (from fast scalar and arpeggiated passages to the lyrical) and tonal expression of a solo clarinet with orchestra.

The Mozart concerto was sandwiched between two contrasted works by Ludwig van Beethoven on the June 15 concert program presented by Phillips 66: the Egmont Overture, Opus 84, with its dramatic images of both tumult and victory; and the exquisite Symphony No. 6 in F Major (“Pastorale”), Opus 68, revered for its celebration of the eternal and universal wonders of nature and its potential for conveying serenity ‘after the storms.’

To quote Menuhin, “It is music that welds spiritual and sensual, that can convey ecstasy without guilt, faith without dogma, love as homage, and a person at home with nature and the infinite.”

Credits: Banner photo and insert images by Mark Blumer Photography, courtesy of OKM.  Tulsa Symphony Orchestra is shown on stage at the Bartlesville Community Center.

*Adapted from OKM program notes by Dr. Scott Allen.

# # # # #Glenda Rice Collins 6-24-16  All rights reserved.

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