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Discover Kalinnikov's First Symphony with the Delco Symphony

An account of the surprising joy of preparing Kalinnikov’s First Symphony with the Delaware County Symphony.

Music has many charms, but one of its most delightful is that it can be a source of continuous surprise. As a lover of orchestral music, I am always on the look out for another great symphonic work. There are so many wonderful pieces out there, yet it is always such a pleasure to discover just one more!

Each new premiere by a living composer presents the possibility to experience the rush of exploring something great and something new. It is like traveling to a new city and having a look around for the first time, knowing all the more with each passing moment that you will be returning here again and again. It is for this reason that I was so surprised to learn that one of my favorite new symphonies was written in… 1895?! But this was exactly the case with Vasily Kalinnikov’s First Symphony.

It is hard to imagine that I somehow previously overlooked this piece. Many of the first works that endeared me to classical music as a boy were written by the Russian composers of the late 19th century. The works of Rimsky-Korsakov and Tchaikovsky were my first early favorites, and before long I was tearing through any Russian music from the 19th century I could get my nine-year-old hands on.

My musical taste has expanded throughout my career as a musician, but music from this period and this region still holds a special place in my heart. Discovering Kalinnikov’s music after all this time is all the more sweet to me for this delay. I have come home from my travels to the new city to discover a beautiful garden I overlooked in my own backyard.

This wonderful piece was finally brought to my attention four months ago. It was recommended for performance by members of DCS to our music director, Jeremy Gill. My interest was immediately piqued when I learned that the composer was a Russian from the late 19th century, but I must admit that I was somewhat wary. Some of the best contemporary classical music I have heard is from relatively unknown composers, however that is partly because history has not had time to sort them out yet.

Music from before the 20th century by lesser-known musicians can often be a wonderful undiscovered treasure, but just as frequently it is less than satisfying. Almost immediately after diving into the score, I got the sense that this was something special. I came to discover that the First Symphony is a highly-wrought composition, both intellectually stimulating and incredibly moving. I have been loving it ever since.

Kalinnikov’s work will be performed by the orchestra on March 3 at Neumann University, along with Dvorak’s Carnival Overture and Szymanowski’s Violin Concerto No. 1. Blanka Bednarz’s playing on the Szymanowski is reason enough to join us that afternoon.

Whether you are a veteran patron of the symphony or this is your very first time, you will be incredibly happy that you came to discover, or rediscover, the beautiful world of Kalinnikov’s First Symphony. I hope to see you there.

For more information and ticket reservations, please visit our website at http://www.dcsmusic.org or call (610) 879-7059.


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