Tom Strini

MSO, UWM, Chicago Symphony team up for Dvorak

"Beyond the Score" immerses you in Dvorak's "New World" Symphony. Thursday night only.

By - Mar 5th, 2013 01:38 pm

Judith Kuhn. UWM photo.

Big public musicology events — okay, we can stop right there. Such events don’t exist.

But the Chicago Symphony, with its vibrant Beyond the Score series, is getting close. And if you’re not in Chicago, Beyond the Score will come to you. Or at least to your orchestra, this season to Milwaukee, Seattle, Des Moines, Philadelphia and four other cities just this spring.

So Thursday evening, creative director/narrator Gerard McBurney, actors Cleary Breunig and Mark Puchinsky and an elaborately produced video on the topic of Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 (“From the New World”) will travel to Marcus Center Uihlein Hall in Milwaukee. The Milwaukee Symphony and music director Edo de Waart will await them. The MSO will play excerpts from the “New World” during the first half, as McBurney and crew fill in the context that led to the composition. The Czech composer conceived it during a stint in New York, where he led the National Conservatory of Music 1892-95 — but I’ll stop right there and let McBurney fill in the rest on Thursday. On the second half, de Waart and the MSO will play the piece straight through.

Judith Kuhn, a music history professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, got this project rolling.

“I’d been to a couple of Beyond the Score presentations in Chicago,” she said, in an interview Monday. “McBurney always finds things that I don’t know. He’s a digger. He’s also a composer, so he can reconstruct the compositional process.”

McBurney is British, and Kuhn got to know him a little when she was in graduate school at the University of Manchester, as McBurney was a good friend of Kuhn’s mentor, David Fanning. Kuhn’s specialty is Soviet music, and McBurney is a Moscow Conservatory alum and something of a Sovietologist. But he also knows how to put on a show – and Beyond the Score is a show.

“Gerard is theatrical and he’s on the absolute cutting edge of musicological research,” Kuhn said. “He goes right to the primary sources. He takes the ‘New World’ and plops it right in the middle of racial issues. When Dvořák said that the future of American music should be rooted in African-American and Native American sources, it caused an incredible stir. The country wasn’t ready for it. Now, every ethnic group claims it.”


Gerard McBurney. Chicago Symphony photo.

This collaboration is part of UWM’s massive Year of the Arts schedule. Some special funding has enabled the Peck School of the Arts to do more than usual, including reach out to the likes of the MSO.

“We went to them to see if they were interested, and they were very interested,” Kuhn said. “They’d been wanting to bring in Beyond the Score for some time.”

Kuhn brought up this idea with Diane Grace, the Peck School’s development director, and Grace negotiated with the MSO.

“A key piece, for us, was for Edo to be there,” she said, referring to the MSO’s revered leader.

Another key piece: UWM got over 1,000 free tickets, which have been distributed mostly to UWM students. The MSO needs some help reaching out to them, and UWM wants its students to have a rich cultural experience in Milwaukee.

Previously this season, Kuhn matched up Larry Todd, a specialist in Mendelssohn, with the MSO for its all-Mendelssohn opening concert, and Laurel Fay, another Soviet music specialist, with the orchestra for a provocative Russian program in February. The gave pre- and post-concert talks for the MSO and spoke for UWM music students. McBurney, too will address students at UWM, on a convocation at noon Friday in the Peck School Recital Hall, and the public is invited.

But those are all intimate events, on the usual small scale of public musicology. If musicology has a popularizing, public star, it’s Gerard McBurney.

“He’s just a creative guy who looks at music as no one else I know looks as music,” Kuhn said. “This will be our biggest thing.”

Beyond the Score begins at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 7, in Marcus Center Uihlein Hall. Tickets are $12 and $32; call the MSO ticket line, 414 291-7605, or visit the MSO website.

TCD has 10 pairs of tickets for this Beyond the Score event. We are giving them away through our E-news, so sign up!

At regular subscription concerts at 11:15 a.m. Friday and 8 p.m. Saturday, the MSO and de Waart will perform Dvořák’s Ninth again. On this program, violinist Nadia Solerno-Sodennberg will be the guest soloist in Bruch’s Concerto No. 1, and Jennifer Higdon’s blue cathedral will open the program. Tickets are $22-$82 for the Friday matinee and $22-$102 Saturday evening.






0 thoughts on “MSO, UWM, Chicago Symphony team up for Dvorak”

  1. Anonymous says:

    This looks wonderful. Thanks for the video. I was reading about Beethoven’s life to my 12-year-old last night and can’t help but think how great this would be for kids, as much as adults.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I was there on March 7th, and not only was the first half immensely interesting (and educational), but the symphony itself received a long standing ovation from the crowd!

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