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Symphonic Benchmarks

MSO concert features Mozart, Ives and Cedarburg’s Gordon

Jan. 12, 2011
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Guest conductor James Gaffigan kicks off the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra’s 2011 schedule with a concert comprising two very different symphonies and a contemporary concerto.

Though Wolfgang Mozart (1756-91) composed music throughout his all-too-brief life, the prominent benchmarks increased as time progressed. This is certainly true of the quarter-century during which Mozart composed his 41 symphonies—by the end, the full extent of the evolution is remarkable. Truly the summit of Mozart’s achievement is his final word on the subject: Symphony No. 41 in C Major, K. 551 (1788), which embodies the Classical symphonic form perfectly with its four movements—the first and last up-tempo, the second slower and third a minuet with trio. But within the structure Mozart applied his creative genius. The finale is exceptional for the richness of its contrapuntal language; a four-note motive, put through its paces, inspires the greatest of tension and dramatic impulse to the very last bars.

Pioneering American symphonist Charles Ives (1874-1954) found his inspiration in America’s people and places. Ives’ Symphony No. 3 (The Camp Meeting) originated as a set of organ works composed for a Presbyterian church in New York. It’s the most atypical of Ives’ five symphonies—a clear and uncluttered reminiscence of 19th-century America as sounded through its hymns.

Though 41-year-old American composer Geoffrey Gordon studies and spends much of his time in New York City, Cedarburg remains his home. The MSO performs Gordon’s Concerto for Trombone and Orchestra (Megumi Kanda, soloist), as well as the above-mentioned Mozart and Ives symphonies at Uihlein Hall on Jan. 14-15.


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