Folk melodies have long been the inspiration for composers from all over the world and have been passed down for generations.
Often, these melodies were sung or played on flutes, lutes, guitars, violins and cellos. The musicians were usually self-taught and the composers of the original melodies long-forgotten. This music has survived through the ages in the tradition of people gathering together to share their love of music.
Even though we are in the middle of a global pandemic, we can still gather, at least virtually, to enjoy music that has been an inspirational part of people’s lives for centuries.
Florence Price, the first African-American composer to have a symphony premiered by a major American orchestra (the Chicago Symphony in 1933) was greatly influenced by folk music and folk dances.
Price’s “String Quartet No. 2” utilizes these elements in its third movement, “Juba Dance.”
Price’s work opens “Irina Muresanu Returns!,” the next concert in the Allentown Symphony Chamber Music Concert Series, premiering 7:30 p.m. March 27 and available afterward on-demand on the Miller Symphony Hall website:
The Juba folk dance was originally brought by the Kingdom of Kongo slaves to Charleston, South Carolina. It became an African-American plantation dance involving tapping and patting of the arms that was performed by slaves during their gatherings when no rhythm instruments were allowed.
Composer Georges Enescu was also greatly influenced by folk music and the traditional melodies of his Romanian heritage. He wrote his “Romanian Rhapsody No. 1” when he was just 19-years-old. The term “rhapsody,” when used as a title for a musical composition, promises music that is tuneful, exciting and improvisatory.
In this piece, Enescu quotes a series of Romanian folk tunes. The most prominent was called: “Am un leu si vreau sa-l beau,” which translates as “I have a coin, and I want a drink.”
“Romanian Rhapsody No. 1” was written for full orchestra. Our concert will feature the Schadt Competition 1st place winner (1997), Violinist Irina Muresanu, in a new version for strings and solo violin.
Irina is from Romania and brings a unique flair to this special arrangement created just for her by Cristian Lolea. There are added violin cadenzas and lots of virtuoso playing as the music swirls through a series of whirling folk dances.
Irina Muresanu has performed all over the world as a soloist and chamber musician. Her concerts, acclaimed for passionate performances, have been cited by The Boston Globe as among the “Best of Classical Music Performances.”
In addition to her solo performance career, she is an Associate Professor at the University of Maryland and has taught at Boston Conservatory and the Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology music departments.
Johannes Brahms was also a composer greatly inspired by folk music. One of the best examples of this is his popular “Hungarian Dance No. 5,” written originally for piano. Members of the ASO will perform a version transcribed to feature Irina Muresanu as a violin soloist with string accompaniment.
Our program inspired by folk music concludes with a string quartet written by Antonin Dvorak.
Dvorak, toward the end of his life, was enticed to leave Czechoslovakia for a prominent position teaching in New York City. During this time, he spent summers living in the rural farming community of Spillville, Iowa.
Dvorak has always been admired for his ability to weave folk melodies from his native land of Czechoslovakia into his music. It was easy for him to shift his focus to capturing the essence of nature that surrounded him while he was staying in Iowa during the summers.
Dvorak’s “String Quartet No. 12 in F Major” was sketched quickly in just three days and reflects traits of American, Slavic and other folk traditions. It has a warm “pastoral” essence, and even includes music inspired by a bird call that Dvorak heard outside his house. This work has become known as the “American Quartet” in honor of the Iowa countryside that inspired it.
Performing in the concert of music inspired by folk melodies, in addition to our world-renown soloist, Irina Muresanu, are members of the Allentown Symphony Orchestra: Eliezer Gutman, Concertmaster; Inna Nedorezov, Principal Second Violin; Agnes Maurer, Principal Viola; Jameson Platte, Acting Principal Cello, and Nathaniel Chase, Section Bass.
We are fortunate to have such wonderful world-class musicians as regular members of the Allentown Symphony Orchestra.
I encourage you to “tune-in” to this wonderful concert of toe-tapping music inspired by folk melodies from throughout the ages.
See you at the Symphony!
Diane Wittry is Music Director and Conductor of the Allentown Symphony Orchestra; Music Director and Conductor of The Garden State Philharmonic, New Jersey, and author of “Beyond the Baton: What Every Conductor Needs To Know” and “Baton Basics: Communicating Music Through Gestures.” Wittry, one of “Musical America” Worldwide Top 30 Musical Infuencers,” teaches conducting workshops throughout the United States and Europe.
PRESS PHOTO BY RICHARD PECKHAM Violinist Irina Muresanu, violin soloist; Inna Nedorezov, ASO principal second violin, during filming of “Irina Muresanu Returns!,” Allentown Symphony Chamber Music Concert Series, premiering 7:30 p.m. March 27 and available afterward on-demand on Miller Symphony Hall website: www.MillerSymphonyHall.org
PRESS PHOTO BY RICHARD PECKHAM Allentown Symphony Chamber Music Concert Series musicians during taping of “Irina Muresanu Returns!,” premiering 7:30 p.m. March 27 and available afterward on-demand on Miller Symphony Hall website: www.MillerSymphonyHall.org