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Published April 27, 2023
No piece of music ends as impressively as “Pines of Rome.” The score portrays ancient Roman legions returning to the Eternal City, marching closer down the Appian Way, complete with a huge orchestra, six brass behind the audience and the organ playing full out.
“Truly, it’s a breathtaking end to the concert and to the orchestra’s season,” says Michael Griffith, University of Wyoming Symphony Orchestra (UWSO) music director.
The UWSO’s final concert of the spring season is Thursday, May 4, at 7:30 p.m. in the Buchanan Center for the Performing Arts concert hall.
Tickets are $16 for the public, $12 for senior citizens and $6 for students. To purchase tickets, visit the Performing Arts box office, call (307) 766-6666 or go online at www.tix.com/ticket-sales/uwyo/6984. UW faculty and staff members, and military personnel can purchase tickets at a discounted rate. To receive the discount, visit the Performing Arts box office between noon-6 p.m. Monday-Friday or call (307) 766-6666.
Composer Ottorino Respighi portrayed far more of Rome in “Pines of Rome,” Griffith says.
“We hear children playing by the Villa Borghese, echoes of long-lost Romans over the catacombs and many birds, including a recorded nightingale by the Gianicolo, before the legions are heard in the distance,” Griffith says. “‘Pines of Rome’ is one of the most-performed works in the orchestral repertoire for very good reason.”
Along with this famous piece, Griffith has chosen two very different works to close the orchestra’s “Expect the Unexpected” season.
The UWSO will start with Claude-Michel Schönberg’s “Miss Saigon: Rhapsody for Piano and Orchestra,” with UW Department of Music Professor Theresa Bogard as soloist. Schönberg is the same composer who brought “Les Misérables” to Broadway, and “‘Miss Saigon’ is no less stunning a score,” Griffith says.
“The rhapsody was composed for one of his rehearsal pianists, who also established a solo career with this work,” he adds.
“Miss Saigon” is the story of a Vietnamese woman who falls in love with an American Marine at the height of the Vietnam War -- a story similar to Puccini’s “Madam Butterfly.”
“The score is, by turns, dramatic, passionate and even honky-tonk,” Griffith says. “For this piano solo version, the accompaniment is orchestrated just like the original Broadway pit version. It is totally unexpected, highly entertaining and very unusual.”
Griffith and the UWSO have explored this niche quite a few times: works for soloist and orchestra, with the original music coming from theater and opera. Over the years, the orchestra has performed Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm Variations” for piano and orchestra; a fantasy for flute and orchestra based on music from “Carmen”; a cello concerto based on the score for “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”; and others. In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Griffith conducted the world premiere of “Reflexões sobre A Ostra e o Vento,” a cello concerto from a film score by Wagner Tiso.
These pieces are an unusual portion of the orchestral world, he says.
Also on the program will be a suite from Jennifer Higdon’s opera “Cold Mountain.” Higdon, a Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, wrote the opera for its Santa Fe premiere in 2015. The UWSO is among a group of orchestras that commissioned this extracted suite and is proud to present its Wyoming premiere, Griffith says.
“The music is a fascinating mixture of contemporary harmonies mixed with square dance sounds, warm and homey scenes, a dramatic chase and a love duet,” he says. “The audience should find it fascinating.”
Bogard, a Steinway artist, is a versatile performer dedicated to expanding the canon of traditional piano repertoire. As a world traveler with a passion for other cultures, Bogard has performed on five continents. Her extensive discography includes recordings ranging from solo piano to chamber music collaborations, from music of living composers to her specialty in fortepiano and historical performance practice.
Bogard has served on the faculty of the InterHarmony International Music Festival in Italy and the Sulzbach-Rosenberg International Music Festival in Germany. She also has performed at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall and the Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute with cellist Misha Quint. She has given master classes and performances at several Brazilian universities.
Internationally known as a pedagogue, Bogard has been honored with numerous teaching awards. She attracts students from around the world as a piano professor at UW, where she served as chair of the UW Department of Music from 2010-16. She also has served as an adjudicator at numerous regional, national and international piano competitions.
In 2008, the Carnegie Foundation selected her as the Wyoming Professor of the Year. Her students have distinguished themselves in prestigious piano competitions and have been accepted into the top graduate and undergraduate programs in the country such as the Cleveland Institute of Music, Eastman School of Music, Juilliard School, Manhattan School of Music, Oberlin College Conservatory of Music and Peabody Conservatory of Music.
For more information, email Griffith at email@example.com.