WCSU, Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra partner to offer concert series

Western Connecticut State University and the Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra will launch a new chamber concert series featuring RSO musicians and WCSU music faculty at Ives Concert Hall in White Hall on the university's Midtown campus, 181 White St. in Danbury, beginning in October.

The first concert in the series will be at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 27. The program will have four selections by American composers Aaron Copland, Samuel Barber, Charles Ives and William Bolcom, and will feature three different ensembles. General admission tickets are $25. Tickets for students, seniors and WCSU faculty/staff are $15. WCSU students with valid I.D. will be admitted free. To purchase tickets, go to tickets.com selecting Ives Concert Hall as the venue, or call the WCSU Box office at (203) 837-TIXX.

The series is the result of a collaboration between WCSU President James W. Schmotter, Dean of the School of Visual and Performing Arts Dr. Dan Goble, Department of Music Chair and Jazz Studies Area Coordinator Jamie Begian, RSO Music Director Jerry Steichen, RSO President Donna Case and RSO Executive Director Gina Wilson.

Goble said, "The upcoming chamber music series, featuring members of the Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra and WCSU music faculty represents the first step in a partnership that will bring quality classical music to a broad audience ... all in an educational setting. The idea is to enhance the musical education of WCSU students, while providing the region with great classical music performed by outstanding professional performing artists. The new partnership will take advantage of Western's new concert hall — part of the 130,000-square-foot Visual and Performing Arts Center scheduled to open in fall 2014 on the Westside campus, only eight miles from the RSO's current performance venue at Ridgefield High School."

Wilson added, "The Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra is thrilled to partner with Western Connecticut State University to present a series of chamber concerts this season. A collaboration between professional musicians from the academic and performing worlds, including RSO music director Jerry Steichen, the series will feature rich programming and the highest quality of musical performance."

A string quartet will open the Oct. 27 concert with Copland's "Two Pieces for String Quartet." The Rondino movement is a round, with fast passages for upper strings alternating with slower, expressive melodies in lower strings. This ensemble also will play the finale, Barber's "String Quartet in B minor." The latter's middle movement is the stupendous Molto Adagio, which Barber later arranged for full string orchestra. "Adagio for Strings" is Barber's most famous piece and was played at the radio announcement of President Franklin Roosevelt's death and also at Albert Einstein's funeral. It is just as poignant in the string quartet setting.

The second ensemble plays the second piece, William Bolcom's four-movement Sonata No. 2 for Violin and Piano. Bolcom is a well-known pianist and professor emeritus of composition at the University of Michigan. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1988. The second movement, titled "Brutal, fast," is aptly named. It is a furious romp for piano and violin, which the composer describes as containing "one of the toughest passages for piano I have ever written."

In deference to the composer after whom the concert venue is named — Danbury's Charles Ives, a composer of international renown, the third ensemble will perform his "Largo for Clarinet, Violin, and Piano." An expressive song for violin over modern piano harmonies, the piece begins and ends with an energetic middle section for all three instruments.

The performers will be pianist and RSO Music Director Jerry Steichen; violinist Jorge Ávila, the orchestra's concertmaster; violinists Sylvia Padegs Grendze and Victoria Paterson; violists Suzanne Corey Sahlin and Hannah Levinson; cellist Melissa Westgate; and Edward Wojtowicz, the orchestra's principal clarinetist.

For more information, call the WCSU Office of University Relations at (203) 837-8774 or the RSO at (203) 438-3889.

Pictured: (l-r): RSO Executive Director Gina Wilson, RSO Music Director Jerry Steichen and Dean of the WCSU School of Visual and Performing Arts Dr. Dan Goble announce a partnership between Western Connecticut State University and the Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra to bring chamber music concerts to the WCSU campus.

Photo credit: Peggy Stewar

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