York Symphony Orchestra to celebrate women composers

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch
Lawrence Golan, music director for the York Symphony, talks about the upcoming season before a rehearsal at the Appell Center for the Performing Arts Friday, March 8, 2019. Bill Kalina photo

In the first few centuries of the development of western music, women, however talented, were rarely allowed to work as a composers.

Much of that changed in the 20th and 21st centuries. There's now a wealth of music composed by women around the world, and Lawrence Golan, music director for York Symphony Orchestra, wants his audiences to hear it.

Every concert in the upcoming York Symphony Orchestra season features either a woman composer or a woman guest artist.

Throughout 2019-20, the orchestra will perform works by the late French composer Lili Boulenger, American composers Gabriela Lena Frank, Joan Tower and Jennifer Higdon and English composer Anna Clyne.

Those works will be featured alongside well-known standards such as Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings," Antonín Dvořák's Cello Concerto in B minor and Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, among others. 

"What is important to me is to, of course, play those standards, but to balance those with pieces and/or composers that the audience has never heard of before," Golan said.

For "Opening Night! Tchaikovsky & Rachmaninoff" on Oct. 12, audiences will hear Sergei Rachmaninoff's "Symphonic Dances," Pyotr Tchaikovsky's suite from "Swan Lake" and Frank's "Three Latin-American Dances for Orchestra." 

Other programs have themes such as "Made in America," featuring three pieces written in the United States: Tower's "Made in America," Dvořák's cello concerto and Aaron Copland's suite from "Billy the Kid."

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"Rhapsody in Blue" will feature music inspired by trains, planes and automobiles, with Higdon's "Loco," George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" and Sergei Prokofiev's Symphony No. 5.

"Bolero!" will celebrate French music, with Boulenger's "One Spring Morning," Maurice Ravel's Piano Concerto in G Major and "Bolero" and Claude Debussy's "La Mer" and "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun." 

"String Fever" will be an evening for the string orchestra, featuring Clyne's "Within Her Arms," a pared-down elegy for 15 musicians in memory of the composer's late mother.

Also on the strings program is Tchaikovsky's "Serenade for Strings," Ralph Vaughan Williams' "Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis," Barber's "Adagio for Strings" and Peter Boyer's "Three Olympians."

Finally, in "Beethoven's 9th," Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 will stand alone as the only work on the final program of the season on Saturday, May 2, 2020.

"Beethoven in general, and this piece in particular, influenced literally every composer that followed for the next 200 years," Golan said.

Beethoven's final symphony was the first symphony to include vocalists and the first to expand the percussion section beyond timpani only, Golan said.

When the composer premiered the work in 1824, it was the longest symphony written to date, with a typical performance lasting about 70 minutes.

The program will likely sell out quickly, and the only way to secure a seat for "Beethoven's 9th" at this point is to buy a subscription package at the Appell Center Box Office, 50 N. George St. in York City. 

Tickets for single concerts will go on sale this summer. 

Lawrence Golan, music director for the York Symphony, and concertmaster Denise Dillenbeck prepare for a rehearsal at the Appell Center for the Performing Arts Friday, March 8, 2019. Bill Kalina photo

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Audience: If there's a new or challenging piece on a program that an audience might not be used to, Golan will balance that by adding something that will be approachable or familiar, YSO concertmaster Denise Dillenbeck said.

"It’s kind of neat to be able to see an array of works through this one prism and see how the ideas then sort of connect up, even though the music can be very different," she said.

The classical music world can be overwhelming or intimidating for people who haven't been brought up in it, Dillenbeck said, so it's important to reach out to new audiences and let them know the symphony is a fun, safe place for everyone.

"It’s OK if you clap in the wrong place," she said. "We like that."

In addition to the classical series, the orchestra will perform three pops concerts next season, including the annual "Holiday Pops Spectacular." Two performances of the annual holiday concert are scheduled on Saturday, Nov. 30.

"I Know That Tune: An Evening of Light Classical Favorites" will be a collection of familiar works that most people recognize from pop culture, even if they don't know the names.

And in time for Halloween, the orchestra will present "Frankenstein: The Original Film with Live Orchestra," performing the music of Michael Shapiro to accompany the 1931 film starring Boris Karloff.

For more information, visit yorksymphony.org or call the box office at 717-846-1111.