EMAV Review: Henderson Symphony Orchestra reaches for the stars with 'New Frontiers' concert

Tools of conductor Alexandra Arrieche's trade.

★★★★☆ - Delicious

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s historic first steps on the moon, and the Henderson Symphony Orchestra (HSO) has been inspired to reach for the stars throughout their 2019-2020 Season with new venues, artists, and programs. Their Season Premiere Concert, “New Frontiers”, was a delicious 4-Star performance at the Henderson Pavilion last Friday evening. If you missed it, you can catch the encore “Sunset Symphony” performance this Saturday, September 28th at 5:00 pm at Lake Las Vegas Sports Club.

Neil Armstrong actually took a recording of Dvořák’s New World Symphony to the Moon during the Apollo 11 mission, the first Moon landing, in 1969, so it was fitting that the program began with that classic symphony. A new piece composed 118 years later by Mason Bates, called Mothership, closed out the engaging musical presentation.

Antonín Leopold Dvořák (1841-1904) was the first Bohemian composer to achieve worldwide recognition, renowned for turning folk material into 19th-century Romantic music. Shortly after his arrival in America in 1892 (from what is now the Czech Republic), Dvořák wrote a series of newspaper articles reflecting on the state of American music. He supported the concept that African-American and Native American music should be used as a foundation for the growth of American music.

His New World Symphony -- one of his best-known works and central to the worldwide orchestral repertory -- was composed by Dvořák in 1893 while he was the director of the National Conservatory of Music of America (1892-1895). It was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic and premiered on December 16, 1893, at Carnegie Hall conducted by Anton Seidl. It is by far his most popular symphony, and one of the most popular of all symphonies.

From this classical work, the enthusiastic audience was whisked away by the sounds of a jet engine and electronic “beeps” depicting a spaceship, upon which various solo musicians are passengers embarking and disembarking. Mason Bates’ Mothership is an ode to electronic media that relies on a blend of various sound sources, live sampling plus traditional acoustical elements -- featuring catchy bits of melody and rhythm across the whole orchestra. Soloists included: Peter Goomroyan (violin), Jorge Machain (trumpet), Sam Ramirez (guitar) and Carlos Mata-Alvarez (saxophone).

Daniel Coombs, of BMOP, described the composition as “An amazingly entertaining trip… Almost like a disco abducted by aliens and going for a joyride… Propulsive and funk rock-inspired mayhem”.

Ever since the YouTube Symphony’s premiere of this work at the Sydney Opera House in 2011, the piece has been included in the programs of major orchestras across the US and abroad. In Mothership, Bates imagines the wind ensemble as a mothership that is docked by several visiting soloists. Mothership aims to transcend barriers of location and looks to 21st Century dance music to enliven its journey. The work was commissioned by Michael Tilson Thomas and the YouTube Symphony, an internet ensemble of musicians across the planet conducted by Thomas, and premiered in March 2011 at the Sydney Opera House in Australia.

Geoffrey Larson, of Second Inversion, applauds Mothership as, “Perhaps the most direct and largest-scale representation of Bates’ style as an ensemble composer, which blends contemporary American classical composition with jazz and electronic sounds.”

Composer of the Grammy-winning opera The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, Mason Bates serves as the first composer-in-residence of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Championed by legendary conductors such as Riccardo Muti, Michael Tilson Thomas, and Leonard Slatkin, his symphonic music is the first to receive widespread acceptance for its unique integration of electronic sounds, and he was named the most-performed composer of his generation in a recent survey of American music. His opera was hailed as one of the best-selling productions in the history of Santa Fe Opera and was awarded the 2019 Grammy for Best Opera Recording. In 2018, he was named Composer of the Year by Musical America.

HSO Music Director, Alexandra Arrieche.

HSO will be performing at new venues around the valley along with those at their home base, the Henderson Pavilion. Music Director Alexandra Arrieche promises that, “The music of many styles, genres, and periods will transport our audience through time and space, and across the continents.” Alexandra is starting her fourth season with HSO and is also the Principal Conductor of the Emmy Award-winning spectacle “Night of the Proms”.

Since its founding in 1987, the Henderson Symphony Orchestra (HSO) has been dedicated to serving the community through performances, educational outreach, and collaborations with partners in the artistic field. HSO’s ensemble of over 80 musicians is launching its 33rd Season brining classical music to a diverse audience and contributing to the cultural community of Southern Nevada. The HSO is proud to be one of the few orchestras in the country to provide all concerts of its master series for free to the community.

All concerts transform the traditional concert format to a more dynamic concert, usually about 90 minutes long and without an intermission.

For their next concert, HSO is honored to bring Steven Spielberg’s 1977 masterpiece, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, to the Henderson Pavilion on October 18th at 8:00 pm. Widely considered one of the most treasured and influential science fiction films of all time, Close Encounters of the Third Kind features a groundbreaking score written by John Williams. Nominated for eight Academy Awards including Best Original Score, Close Encounters of the Third Kind remains as engrossing and inspiring today as it was forty-two years ago. Now, for the first time ever, the HSO audience will be able to experience John Williams’ magnificent score performed in its entirety by the HSO, live and in sync with this extraordinary film.

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