Mariposa symphony to celebrate coming of spring

April 25, 2013 

— Springtime is the season for wildflowers, sunshine, waterfalls and ample opportunities to be outdoors. But in Mariposa, springtime also brings classical music to the stage.

"This season's concert combines three composers and two soloists in one amazing setting," said Les Marsden, the Mariposa Symphony Orchestra's founder and conductor.

Playing the music of Giuseppe Verdi, Johannes Brahms and Sir Edward Elgar, the orchestra will be joined this weekend by two guest artists: violinist Ann Miller and cellist Ira Lehn.

After graduating from Julliard, Miller completed her master's with honors degree at Rice University. She has performed internationally, is a member of Trio 180 (a piano and string ensemble) and serves as assistant professor of music at the University of the Pacific.

Lehn's enduring and distinguished musical career includes filling the role of principal or assistant principal cellist in several orchestras across the country. This will be his second appearance with the Mariposa symphony.

From Marsden's program notes, Verdi's opera, "La Forza del Destino" (The Force of Destiny) went through a number of revisions, including a lengthening of the original overture from a mere three minutes to almost three times that.

It was one of two works of his introduced beyond the borders of Western Europe. This particular piece is considered by many to be Verdi's finest overture.

"Double Concerto for Violin and Cello" was Brahms' final orchestral work. It was not received well. Although undue scorn by critics tainted its initial reception and kept Brahms from writing a similar arrangement, in a short time the music had won many admirers.

Over the years, critics have reevaluated this symphonic masterpiece. Audiences are sure to be dazzled by the prowess of Miller and Lehn as they share the stage this weekend.

Also on the program is a mysterious composition.

Variations on an original theme for orchestra, "Enigma," contains a hidden meaning that is not played, according to its composer.

For more than a century, musicians have attempted to solve the riddle, but Elgar took the secret to his grave.

While relaxing at home after a tiring day of teaching, the struggling composer began playing simple melodies on the piano.

One tune caught his wife's attention. He elaborated on it to form variations reflecting characteristics or idiosyncrasies of himself, his wife and 12 of their friends.

This piece became something of a defining work, launching him from obscurity to immediate popularity in England and abroad.

Some of Elgar's more familiar works include "The Dream of Gerontius" and "Pomp and Circumstance."

The Mariposa symphony will perform its spring concert at 7 p.m. Saturday in Fiester Auditorium at Mariposa County High School, 5074 Old Highway North.

Tickets for adults are $6. Thanks to a generous benefactor, students can attend Saturday's concert for free.

On Sunday, the same program will be performed at 2 p.m. in the Great Lounge of the Ahwahnee Hotel at Yosemite National Park. This concert is free, but donations are accepted.

More information is available at the website, www.mariposaartscouncil.org, or by calling on weekdays, (209) 966-3155 or (800) 903-9936.

The YARTs bus No. 4 leaves the Mariposa park-n-ride a few minutes before noon and arrives at the Ahwahnee Hotel (with a stop on demand) about 1:30 p.m. Visit www.yarts.com/schedules.html for details.

For more than a decade, these musicians of various skill levels have joined to perform classical music for their friends and neighbors.

Even as Marsden holds the bar a little higher each year, the Mariposa symphony continues to rise to the challenge by performing beautiful music in a manner well done.

Debbie Croft writes about life in the foothill communities. She can be reached at composed@tds.net.

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