Arts & Entertainment

Eastern Music Festival and It’s Spirit of Performance

Ross Kiefer 
 A&E Editor

Now entering its last few days of the summer season, Eastern Music Festival draws to a close while maintaining an impressive roster of performances and visiting artists. Beginning in late June, the festival will be concluding with a concert by the Eastern Festival Orchestra. The performance will be held Saturday, July 30th at 8pm in Dana Auditorium at the festivals main base of operations, Guilford College. Students and faculty alike heralded from across the country will have performed on over 65 concerts, and contributed to various master classes, workshops and seminars.

Founded in 1961 at Guilford College, Eastern Music Festival sought to provide an enriching musical experience that offered a specialized focus on its students. Greensboro local and founder Sheldon Morgenstern began with a little over seventy students and 14 faculty members. Today the festival itself hosts 200 students with over 80 faculty members supervising their development for the summer.

Over the last half century, EMF has expanded well outside Guilford College’s campus. Now featuring concerts that entertain the halls of UNCG, High Point University, as well as Appalachian State University and numerous other venues within the Greensboro area. The festival also houses a diverse range of students from all over the world.

EMF allows young musicians to hone a variety of skills throughout the season. Offering concentrations in orchestra, collaborative piano and conducting fellowships, these programs help emerging musicians prepare themselves work in the world of classical music. EMF also extends itself beyond music by encouraging students to be more aware of their bodies by including injury prevention courses, offering Tai Chi and Alexander Technique. This continual growth of the programs has helped EMF to achieve notoriety on the national level.

Partnering with well known classical musicians has also been incredibly beneficial for students. Notable performers have been Yo-Yo Ma, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, and Itzhak Perlman, who have maintained a long lasting relationship with the festival. These musicians often offer a masterclass, which is free to both students and the public, as a way to offer insight to the intricacies of classical music.

This season the festival has featured renowned cellist Julian Schwarz and pianist William Wolfram. The festival has also continued relationships with new composers, such as Julia Adolphe, whose Concerto for Viola was performed this season.  

For this summer, EMF has the privilege of premiering a new work by Sir André Previn. Previn himself is a well accomplished conductor, pianist and composer. He has accumulated numerous Academy Awards for his work with film scores like Porgy & Bess. Previn has also been awarded ten Grammy’s for both performances and arrangements of not only his work, but composers such as Bernstein and Copland. His new work will receive its world premiere at Dana Auditorium on Saturday, July 23rd at in Dana, and is the first piece on the concert program.

For EMF’s final concert of the season they will be performing pieces by Aaron Copland, Sergei Rachmaninoff and Richard Wagner. First on the program is Copland’s Symphonic Ode. Originally premiered in 1929, this piece explores Copland’s interest in polyrhythms found in jazz, but Copeland chose to remove them from the jazz style and alter them to his unique brand of composition. This work exhibited challenges for performers at the time of its premiere, mainly because many of the rhythms that Copland used in the piece had not yet become part of standard practice. Nadia Boulanger, one of Copland’s mentors wrote “. . . with the Ode, more than ever, I have understood who you are, what you come to say, and how you are ready to give it a definite form.”

Being performed next on the program is Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No.2. This piece begins with a trodding entrance on the piano which is almost reminiscent of bells. It then expands with orchestra entering on a very “Russian” theme, and the piano equivalent of shredding begins. This piece was composed by Rachmaninoff after his recovery from a fit of depression and is dedicated to his physician, Nikolai Dahl.

The concluding piece of the concert is excerpts from Wagner’s Götterdämmerung. Beginning with Act 1 at Dawn, this piece draws its story and libretto from Norse mythology, and tells the story of cursed monarchs and ancient mysticism.

Dana Auditorium will once again be hosting the EMF’s concluding concert. Starting at 8pm on July 30th, the concert will mark the end of one Greensboro’s greatest contributions to the arts. For the past 55 years EMF has both managed to inspire new musicians, and solidify the legacies of the old masters. Tickets for the event can be purchased by calling Triad Stage at 336-272-0160, or by going online at http://www.easternmusicfestival.org.

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