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Excerpts from seven different works are available:
Always tackling ever-greater challenges, the PCO presented Béla Bartók's brilliant Concerto for Orchestra in March 2001. Bartók was a pioneer in the field of ethnomusicology, systematically cataloging folk songs from his native Hungary and adapting them into his concert works. In addition, he incorporated new ideas about form and harmony in order to arrive at the distinct style that made him one of the most important composers of the first half of the 20th century. His Concerto for Orchestra, written near the end of his life, has become his most popular symphonic work, with virtuosic writing that taxes even top professional orchestras.
Listen to an excerpt (1:44) from the PCO's performance of Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra, first movment
While the PCO's diverse repertoire includes some works that are rarely performed, it also includes some of the most famous pieces in the entire symphonic literature. The orchestra opened its 2000-01 season with Beethoven's groundbreaking Symphony #5. The four-note opening motive is the best known "sound byte" in the history of music, but there is much more to the piece than that: the motive exerts an influence on the entire 35-minute symphony. Furthermore, trombones, a piccolo, and a contrabassoon are brought into a symphonic context for the first time; and the third movement flows into the fourth without a break, ensuring a psychological continuity that was also an innovation.
Listen to an excerpt (2:08) from the PCO's performance of Beethoven's Symphony #5, first movement
Over the years, the Pomona College Orchestra has shown a great affinity for music by the great romantic Russian and Slavic masters. Entire seasons have been capped off with such works as Tchaikovsky’s Symphony #5 and Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. Dvořák’s Symphony #9, “From the New World,” is by a Czech composer – but one who was living in the United States at the time. The PCO performed this great symphony on its October 2001 concerts. American audiences, appreciative of the infectious melodies, dramatic orchestration, and connection to their homeland, have embraced this piece since its New York premiere more than 100 years ago.
Listen to an excerpt (1:52) from the PCO's performance of Dvořák’s “New World” Symphony, fourth movement
Pomona has more than its share of historical significance in the world of music. The infamous avant-garde composer John Cage studied here, as did one of the greatest choral conductors ever, Robert Shaw. Another alumnus is Vladimir Ussachevsky, who earned his Bachelor of Arts from Pomona in 1935. Ussachevsky was a pioneer in the field of electronic music, and the Pomona music department now sponsors an annual electronic music festival in his honor. Rhapsodic Variations, a 1954 collaborative effort with Otto Luening, is recognized as the first piece ever to combine a traditional orchestra with sounds from an electronic tape. The orchestra was happy to bring this landmark piece “back home” on its October 2001 program.
Listen to an excerpt (1:19) from the PCO's performance of Luening and Ussachevsky’s Rhapsodic Variations
Few musicians can resist the allure of the hyper-romantic Gustav Mahler, whose sprawling symphonies can take 90 minutes to perform and whose dizzying emotional extremes are unlike any other composer’s. In March 2002, the Pomona College Orchestra scaled the heights of one of Mahler’s “smaller” symphonies, the First. Lasting 55 minutes and requiring about 30 wind and brass players, the Symphony #1 is still large enough to make any normal symphony pale in comparison. The first movement, which is excerpted here, opens with an incredibly serene representation of Nature. By the end of the movement, however, the melodic material gets whipped into a frenzy of dance and exultation.
Listen to an excerpt (1:26) from the PCO's performance of Mahler’s Symphony #1, first movement
In December 2001, the orchestra was joined by the renowned duo piano team of Karl and Margaret Kohn, who were soloists in the delightful Carnival of the Animals by Saint-Saëns. The piece was originally written for an “orchestra” of only nine players to accompany the two pianos. Saint-Saëns later endorsed performances of the piece using larger string sections, but the orchestra still has a very small wind section. In spite of this apparent limitation, however, the piece displays an enchanting range of color and atmosphere. One of the most famous movements is the “Aquarium,” where fluid arpeggios in the two pianos support an eerily simple melody in the strings.
Listen to the “Aquarium” movement (2:03) from the PCO's performance of Saint-Saëns’ The Carnival of the Animals
The orchestra's program in March 2000 included a fascinating work by one of America's most important composers, Joan Tower. Gary Bovyer, principal clarinet of both the Long Beach Symphony and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, and frequent performer in L.A.'s film studios, was the soloist. The entire concerto, twenty minutes long, features tremendous contrasts, from agitated dance music to a brooding elegy. This excerpt from the first part of the work previews several moods, giving an idea of what is to come.
Listen to an excerpt (3:03) from the PCO's performance of Joan Tower's Clarinet Concerto