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Symphony back at theme of the crime

Thu., April 7, 2011

‘C.S.I.’ program resumes with ‘Mistaken Identities’

Mistaken identity, disguise and identity theft have been recurring themes in crime shows. The Spokane Symphony’s Casual Classics series explores all three as the orchestra continues its chamber orchestra programs based on the “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” television series.

Morihiko Nakahara, the symphony’s resident conductor, will lead a program of works by Bach, Haydn and Respighi at the Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox on Friday.

Four of the orchestra’s principal wind players – flutist Bruce Bodden, oboist Keith Thomas, bassoonist Lynne Feller-Marshal and hornist Jennifer Scriggens-Brummett – will perform the solo parts in the Sinfonia Concertante for Winds (K. 297b) attributed to Mozart.

Nakahara opens Friday’s concert with the Ricercar in Six Parts, the final movement of J.S. Bach’s “Musical Offering,” a series of movements based on a tune given to Bach by Frederick the Great.

While the piece was originally for harpsichord, Friday’s version is an arrangement for a small group of instruments by Anton von Webern, a composer with an important Spokane connection.

The definitive biography of Webern was written by the late Spokane musicologist Hans Moldenhauer and his wife, Rosaleen.

“What got me started thinking about this Webern arrangement of Bach was remembering how Webern died, shot because of a mistaken identity,” Nakahara said in a telephone interview.

“But the Ricercar itself has a whole new identity in Webern’s arrangement because of the way Webern splits up the melodies among the instruments.”

  The identity of the composer of Sinfonia Concertante for Winds remains the subject of argument and may come closer to identity theft.

A 19th century copy of the work was found in the papers of one of Mozart’s early biographers, unlabeled as to its author.

Was this mystery piece at all by Mozart? Was part of it by him? Was it composed by someone trying to write like him?

The soloists for Friday’s performance argue that their parts could not have been played on the kind of instruments available to Mozart when he was supposed to have written the work.

“So the whole problem of who wrote how much of it is still being debated,” Nakahara says.

The version he has programmed is a “reconstruction” by Robert Levin, a pianist and scholar who is internationally recognized for his performances and editions of Mozart.

Levin, too, has a Spokane connection: His completion of Mozart’s Requiem was heard here in 2003 at the Northwest Bach Festival.

Ottorino Respighi is best known for his often- performed Roman triptych of orchestral blockbusters: “The Fountains of Rome,” “The Pines of Rome” and “Roman Festivals.”

But Respighi loved renaissance and baroque music and he made orchestral arrangements of three sets of 17th century songs and dances for lute he called “Antique Airs and Dances.” 

“Strangely enough,” Nakahara says, “I didn’t come to know Respighi through any of his big pieces. When I was in school in Japan, we played one of the dances from his ‘Antique Airs and Dances,’ and I fell in love with the piece.

“So we’re playing the first set based on dances by Simone Molinaro, Vincenzo Galilei – was father of Galileo, the astronomer – and two dances by the prolific Mr. Anonymous.”

Joseph Haydn wrote at least 104 symphonies, none stranger than No. 60. It was not originally written as a symphony at all but as incidental music for a play called “Der Zerstreute” (“The Absent-Minded Fellow”), the German translation of a comedy by the French playwright Jean-François Regnard.

The play is a parade of the entanglements and hot water the hero’s forgetfulness gets him into. Haydn later took six sections from this music and turned them into a symphony. 

“I picked this symphony when this concert was scheduled for April Fool’s Day, last Friday,” Nakahara says.

“But when the concert was changed to April 8, I thought it was too good a piece to pass up. There are a lot of jokes people will get even if they have never even heard of the play.”

Nakahara will provide spoken program notes for the works on Friday’s program, illustrated with musical examples played by the symphony musicians.


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