You’ll never forget the first time you hear Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “The Lark Ascending,” a work that’s pure musical poetry — literally (pun intended). The English composer was able to find just the right notes to portray the gracefulness of the skylark, so beautifully captured in the text of English poet George Meredith.
This pastoral romance for orchestra will test the musical and technical dexterity of guest concertmaster and violin soloist Scott St. John, whom we interviewed ahead of Saturday’s “Matchmaking” concert to learn about the music and how one prepares to interpret the score in front of a live audience.
If you come to the concert — that would be you.
Q: The Lark Ascending — hello beautiful music! How does Vaughan Williams match his music to the poetry of English novelist George Meredith?
Scott St. John: Vaughan Williams matches the essentially positive and beautiful nature of Meredith’s poetry, and makes musical imitations of bird song. The music is mainly flowing and whimsical, frequently using a five-tone scale to make us think of folk song and simple pleasures.
Q: Is this one of those works that feels good on the instrument or is it awkward to execute?
SSJ: This work is very well written for the violin, although he does throw in several passages of “double-stops” (two notes at once), which are extremely awkward.
Q: When you practice this piece, what are the kind of things that you focus on? Tone color? Intonation? Technique? Q: How much of the interpretation during performance is in the moment, how much of it is planned?
SSJ: Quite a bit of both! Fingerings are planned, general tempos are planned. But there are huge solo sections for the violin, and they can be very free and different every time.
Q: Tell us something about your fiddle: What’s special about your instrument?
SSJ: Many of the finest older violins come from Italy or other European countries. I am very proud to play on one of the earliest American violins, made in Boston in 1886. The maker, Jerome Bonaparte Squier, called himself the “Stradivarius of America”!
The River Oaks Chamber Orchestra presents “Matchmaking” as its yearly conductorless concert on Saturday, February 13, at 5 pm at The Church of St. John the Divine. A concert talk with begin at 4:20 pm.
Make it a complete Valentine’s Day date night with “Social Supper with Chef Soren Pedersen.” Packages that include concert and dinner are $100 per person.
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