by: Jerome Kleinsasser

In 1862 the great French Romantic composer Hector Berlioz wrote: “Instrumentation is, in music, the exact equivalent of color in painting.”

On November 6, Music Director John Farrer will serve as our guide through a gallery exhibit of musical paintings that embrace nearly 200 years of orchestral history, ranging from Napoleonic Europe to California in the late 20th-century. Five colorful portraits in orchestral sound will take us from California to Austria, Germany, Bohemia and Russia.

The exhibit opens with Lutoslawki’s 1993 Fanfare for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, a brief but intensely striking sonic mountain of dissonances pitting various instrumental groupings against one another in a shocking musical free-for-all. Before you know it, in the greatest surprise of all, everything resolves in silence.

Our visit through the orchestral gallery continues with music of heroic character and scale in Beethoven’s overture to his opera Fidelio. Born in the age of Napoleon, the powerful opening chords announce that this is music of great substance and character. Moments of genuine beauty follow as solo horns and woodwinds carry us on a journey of swelling emotional highs that speak to the spiritual courage within us all.

Next, in Richard Strauss’s Death and Transfiguration we encounter a rather dark portrait of a solitary soul facing his final hours, alone, in the half-sleep of near death, where thoughts of childhood, youth and maturity combine in a panorama of life’s experiences. After a great emotional struggle, in conclusion all culminates in an aura of redemption and ultimately resounding transformation.

As we turn a corner we encounter something of a quite different color palette in Antonin Dvořák’s Scherzo Capriccioso. Here we are whisked away to the brilliant colors of a Bohemian folk celebration, with lilting dances and rollicking games. Instrumental colors of winds, strings, and percussion instruments are set off in joyous bold relief.

Our gallery presentation culminates in a lovely, but heart-rending portrait of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, as fashioned by the great Russian orchestral colorist, Tchaikovsky. The character of Friar Lawrence, and the warring Capulet and Montague families, as well as the fated lovers themselves, are wrapped appropriately in sonic costume of genuine clarity and sympathy.

Thus ends a memorable musical gallery exhibit of great depth and emotional meaning, presented by the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra led by Music Director John Farrer.

Don’t forget your tickets…

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