For the last three performance seasons, Southside Philharmonic Orchestra has delivered classical music — familiar and new — to Jefferson City audiences. The highly skilled chamber orchestra has filled Miller Performing Arts Center with Pyotr Tchaikovsky's iconic music of "The Nutcracker" while Dancers' Alley acted out the ballet on stage.
They have presented well-known works from modernist composers such as Claude Debussy's "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun" and Aaron Copland's "Appalachian Spring," while in the same concert showcasing lesser known pieces from the same era, including Igor Stravinsky's "Dumbarton Oaks" and Southside Philharmonic Orchestra conductor and artistic director Patrick Clark's own "Ptolemy's Carousel."
Nearly two months ago, the Southside Philharmonic Orchestra returned to the classic music period local audiences enjoyed last fall during the "Early Baroque: Reprise!" concert when they reprised songs from composers Claudio Monteverdi and Giovanni Gabrieli at St. Peter Catholic Church.
"The acoustics in St. Peter Catholic Church were outstanding for this concert with its antiphonal brass music. The sound filled the sanctuary from one end to the other," said Gary Sanders, co-founder, treasurer and pianist for Southside Philharmonic Orchestra. "We received tremendous feedback from our audience with several stating this was their first concert and were looking forward to the next. It was one of our most successful programs to date."
To continue the organization's efforts in introducing, the Southside Philharmonic Orchestra will present "Kings of Classical: Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven" at 7 p.m. May 17 at Central United Church of Christ, 118 W. Ashley St.
"We always want to program something new and unique for our community and have presented concerts highlighting modernism, ancient music, baroque and now we are presenting works by the masters of the classical period," Sanders said. "The robust Viennese triumvirate of Franz Joseph Hayden, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven defined the classical age of music."
The Southside Philharmonic Orchestra will perform one piece of each of these famed classical period composers. Sanders said they selected Haydn's "Symphony no. 44 'Trauer,' movement 1" because it was completed during a time when Haydn's symphonic style had begun to change by employing a new emotional component "sturm and drang," or storm and stress.
"Emotionalism took the form of devices such as a tendency toward stronger, even violent musical contrasts, longer harmonic progressions, restless syncopated figures and an increase usage of minor keys which Haydn lead the prominence," he said.
Beethoven's "Symphony no. 8, op. 93" is also on the program, and Sanders said this piece is referred to by the composer as "my little Symphony in F," distinguishing it from a longer work in the same key, "Symphony no. 6." Sanders added it is an effervescent, lighthearted (though not lightweight) work structurally more radical than Beethoven's preceding symphonies.
"Beethoven refashioned symphonic form by adding a minuet and trio (instead of a scherzo) and making the final movement the weightiest with his experimentation in dynamics and instrumentation," Sanders said. "When Beethoven's student Carl Czerny asked the composer why the eighth symphony was less popular than the seventh, Beethoven is said to have replied 'because the eighth is so much better!'"
The third piece, Mozart's "Piano Concerto no. 17, K. 453 in G major," was specifically chosen by Sanders, who will feature as the piano soloist. His reasoning for selecting this particular concerto is its middle movement that, Sanders believes, is "one of Mozart's most sublime and poignant creations, one that is filled with deeply moving harmonic poetry — truly a masterpiece in all of music literature."
"I introduced Patrick to this concerto quite a while ago, and we agreed this is a concerto the SPO needed to do. My first exposure to it was as a college student, and I never forgot the impact the middle movement in particular had on me," Sanders said. "Although not a work so often chosen by soloists from Mozart's oeuvre of piano concertos, it stands as one of the most striking and original of all in this genre."
Even though Sanders knew of this concerto for many years, he had never performed it and only began learning it four months ago. He said he concentrated on the heavyweight "flashy" music of Liszt, Chopin, Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky and others of the like when he was younger.
"Four decades can change one's perspective on music, and learning this work at 62 has proven to be one of the most challenging yet rewarding musical 'tasks' I have ever undertaken. It has taught me a great deal about articulation, expression and, in particular, clarity," he said. "Technical challenges are abound in this work, and with Mozart, a pianist is completely exposed. There's no covering up problems or inaccuracies by simply slamming on the pedal — quite the contrary, Mozart's piano music requires an absolute minimum usage of it. The mind, ear, hand, and fingers do all the work — give the feet a rest!"
Sanders loves all three composers for various reasons, each being individual in their music despite Mozart and Beethoven being taught by Haydn.
"I feel the music of Haydn is particularly bubbly — filled with personality while the music of Mozart exemplifies elegance, grace and sheer genius. Beethoven was the radical one employing expanded dynamics and technique. His music is filled with magnificence and tremendous emotion," he said. "We are going to give you a very fresh performance taking Beethoven at a ripping tempo as intended along with highly expressive Mozart and 'stormy' Haydn. We're presenting the best elements from the classical period."
Southside Philharmonic Orchestra plans to continue its diverse offering of music with upcoming performances including "An Evening at the Opera," featuring local talent, operas and choruses from favored operas in October, and a ballet with Dancers' Alley in December.
Tickets are $15 for adults and $7 for students. They are available at SPOJCtickets.eventbrite.com or at the door. For more information, visit www.southsidephilharmonic.org or www.facebook.com/SouthsidePhilharmonic.