GILLIAN REINHARD ’20
To celebrate the holidays, and for students at Trinity, providing the chance to escape the dreariness of finals seasons, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra (HSO) will be conducting their annual holiday concert, this season titled “December Dreams.”
The concert comes in the wake of controversy in the organization’s financial stability. The HSO, one of the largest in the New England region, has faced significant budget challenges in the past few years. As reported by The Hartford Courant, the HSO found itself in a labor dispute highlighting the demands of the organization’s management to reduce musician’s salaries to avoid bankruptcy. This fiscal year ended with the HSO in a surplus of revenue, an obviously positive direction for the Symphony to continue in. In their 75th season, the HSO has managed to significantly increase their donations and ticket sales.
The program, conducted by Assistant Conductor Adam Boyles, will feature the Santa Claus Christmas Symphony by William Henry Fry, a noted 19th century composer, recognized as one of the first major Americans to contribute to classical music. In addition to being a famous musician, Fry was also recognized for his significant contributions as a music critic and editor for publications such as The New York Tribune and The New York Times. His Santa Claus, one of the composer’s most enduring works, is an obviously festive piece of music, mimicking both the frozen winters of the season as well as the joyous melodies of Christmas.
Jennifer Higdon’s Oboe Concerto is a contemporary piece first commissioned in 2005. The oboe holds a unique fascination to the composer, who sought to create a single movement to highlight the instrument. The work holds great lyrical appeal to audiences, and invokes the spirit of the holiday season.
Of course, no holiday program is complete without a performance of The Nutcracker. The unofficial “soundtrack” to Christmas will play at the Symphony, featuring the music of Tchaikovsky’s timeless score. Though initially a commercial flop at its 1892 premiere in Moscow, Russia, the score had been previously brought to life as a family-friendly ballet reimagined by choreographer George Balanchine and the New York City Ballet towards the middle of the 20th century.
Tchaikovsky was a renowned ballet composer – his others, The Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake, were massive successes of their time. Tchaikovsky was drawn to the short story of the Romantic author E.T.A. Hoffman, who wrote of a fantasy story about a nutcracker and mouse king during the Christmas season. The score was inspired by Tchaikovsky’s travels around Europe, where he learned to hone his composing skills to mimic the great composers that came before him, such as Mozart and Beethoven. Upon his travels to Paris, Tchaikovsky encountered the celesta, a French bell-like instrument which can be heard today in the “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.” However, his commitment to the Christmas spirit was first discovered upon the composer’s trip to New York City in the 1890s, where he conducted the first-ever concert performance at Carnegie Hall. Tchaikovsky was fascinated by the friendliness of Americans and their fast-paced culture.
The score of The Nutcracker is varying and instantly recognizable. Even the audience member with the faintest knowledge of classical music will be able to pick up a large majority of the performance- either from movies, commercials, or other media. The HSO’s “December Dreams” will appeal to all audiences and provides a perfect celebration of the holidays.