Debbie Croft: Mariposa Symphony takes on challenging show

October 19, 2012 


Tonight's performance of the Mariposa Symphony Orchestra celebrates the opening of its 11th season of making music.

For a peek at what the audience can expect, I'll refer to program notes by Les Marsden, MSO founder and conductor:

Gioacchino Rossini, an Italian composer from the early to mid-1800s, is best known for his operas, "William Tell" and "The Barber of Seville." Rossini's inspiration for his development of opera came from Mozart. Both in comic and dramatic works his style moved from the traditional subject matter of mythology into the realm of everyday characters and situations.

By the time he was 38 years old he had written 38 operas. He is said to have paved the way for later composers to give their operas happy, rather than tragic, endings.

The opening selection for tonight's concert will be the overture from Rossini's opera, "La Gazza Ladra," or "The Thieving Magpie." Marsden calls it one of the composer's "spritely best." The flutes mimic birdsong in this delightful piece.

"A Night on Bald Mountain" is also on the program, and is one of Modest Mussorgsky's most familiar compositions. An arrangement of this piece was used in Disney's "Fantasia." It was one of the first tone poems written by a Russian composer. Mussorgsky's raw, masculine sound lends an unpolished quality to this classical work, that Marsden prefers over the altered arrangements by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Leopold Stokowski.

The eerie sound of a cathedral pipe organ playing Johann Sebastian Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor has found its way into many horror films over the years.

But what is a toccata, and what's a fugue?

A toccata is a composition for a keyboard instrument written to display the musician's technique. It also sounds a lot like improv.

Fugue means having multiple parts, each having an independent melody, but all harmonizing to sound like they belong together, according to

Knowing the meanings of these terms might help as you read the program notes while waiting for the concert to begin.

But Toccata and Fugue in D Minor has a mystery of its own: It might not have been written by Bach after all.

The program notes explain.

Finally, Antonin Dvorák was a "very talented fellow" according to Johannes Brahms, who helped him get published in the music world. After achieving world famous status, he was hired as director of the National Conservatory of Music of America in Manhattan.

Dvorák encouraged American composers to find their own style and national identity by paying attention to the sounds of music being sung and played by the people of the young nation.

From the rhythms and melodies of Native Americans and African-Americans, to the Irish jigs and Moravian hymns, American music began developing a voice of its own. The blended potpourri of cultures contributed to what has emerged as the music of our American heritage.

Dvorák's Eighth Symphony in G Major will complete tonight's performance. With four movements, this piece is memorable for the composer's remarkable ingenuity and optimism. The finale of this symphony, Marsden notes, is a near riot of a Bohemian carnival.

The concert will be in Mariposa County High School's Fiester Auditorium, 5074 Old Highway North, at 7 p.m. Tickets are $6 for adults, $4 for students and are available at the Mariposa County Arts Council, 5009 Highway 140 (upper level of Chocolate Soup), and the Visitors Center, 5158 Highway 140. Call (800) 903-9936 or (209) 966-3155 for details.

MSO musicians come from Mariposa, but also Catheys Valley, Merced, Atwater, Turlock, Oakhurst and Coarsegold. With an occasional appearance by someone from Fresno. Marsden encourages anyone in the general vicinity who can play an instrument to consider joining the group.

Bring a friend to tonight's concert, and you won't be disappointed. You might even be impressed.

Debbie Croft writes about life in the foothill communities. She can be reached at

Merced Sun-Star is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service