, Salem, MA


April 18, 2013

Feel like dancing

Symphony by the Sea's upcoming concert features pieces with a 'dancelike' quality

The first audience to hear Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, in 1813, liked the second movement so much they made the orchestra stop and play it again.

Those musical themes should be just as thrilling next Thursday, when Symphony by the Sea plays Beethoven’s Seventh at Abbot Hall in Marblehead, and on Sunday, when they play it again at The Governor’s Academy in Byfield.

But in choosing Beethoven’s work for their spring concert, conductor Don Palma was drawn to another aspect of his music, elements that led Richard Wagner to describe it as “the apotheosis of the dance.”

“He just heard this as a very strong and visceral kind of dancelike symphony,” Palma said.

After making the 7th the center of his program, Palma searched for other pieces that fit Wagner’s description and used the latter as a title for the concert as a whole.

“I thought I’d take some of Mozart’s ballet music, in one of his early operas, ‘Idomeneo,’” Palma said. “Mozart was imitating Gluck, who would include ballet in his operas. This is the finale.”

He also chose Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64, which was first performed in 1845 and was one of the composer’s last orchestral pieces.

“The last movement was very influenced by folk music and dance,” Palma said. “He did many walking tours around Europe and was taken by dance music he heard.”

Of the three compositions, only Mozart’s was written to accompany a specific dance, but they all share the qualities that Wagner identified in Beethoven’s symphony.

“There’s something visceral and engaging about the rhythm,” Palma said. “They’re not just relating to the melodies. There’s something about this music — both the ‘Idomeneo’ and the last movement of the Mendelssohn and the outer movements of the Beethoven — that gets under your skin and makes you want to move.”

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