JSO's Season Finale of 'American Voices'

May 9, 2018

On Saturday, the Jackson Symphony has their final concert of the year featuring two premieres of American works & and Czech composer inspired by America. WKAR’s Jamie Paisley sat down with JSO’s Dr. Matthew Aubin to get inside the music.


This Saturday’s season-ending performance of the Jackson Symphony, called American Voices begins with a fanfare, a world premiere from one of the JSO’s own. "Yeah, Jonathan Bruce Brown is our composer-in-residence." explains Dr. Matthew Aubin. "He's on faculty at Spring Arbor University and actually just retired! He'll be continuing with the JSO and he was kind enough to write a curtain-raiser, bit of a fanfare for me and my directorship of both the Jackson Symphony and the Chelsea Symphony in New York." You may have even seen Jonathan Bruce Brown deliver one of the JSO’s preconcert talks.

But that’s not the only premiere on this Saturday’s concert. Dr. Matthew Aubin and the JSO were co-commissioners with 4 other ensembles of a new work from the American composer Lowell Liebermann and the JSO will play the Michigan premiere of Liebermann’s Cello Concerto. But in describing Liebermann's style, the JSO's Music Director is slightly cautious. "A lot of people call Lowell 'neo-Romantic.' I don't think he likes to call himself that," says  Aubin, "but what that typically implies is that there's these beautiful lush melodies and this piece is no exception. There's all these beautiful melodies that soar over the orchestra and one could even, you know, picture something. It's very cinematic in nature." The Saturday’s concert at the Potter Center with this Liebermann Cello Concerto will be the 5th and final performance of that commissioning consortium of ensembles. But that also means that the cello soloist, Julian Schwarz, has gotten to perfect his approach over this past season. "Yeah, well actually Julian just sent me a list of notes and they're just really for balance, but I don't think a lot has changed in terms of, you know, tempos, or notes, or anything like that. It's kind of a small orchestra. Full string sections, but only two horns, two trumpets and one trombone. But the percussion: there's marimba, there's vibraphone, there's a celeste and piano. And so you get these beautiful colors from there."

The 2nd half of this Jackson Symphony season ending concert called American Voices features a Symphony by a Czech composer, but one with strong ties to the US who toured America and was inspired by African-American Spirituals and Native American music to craft his New World Symphony.

[Musical excerpt of movement II. Largo from the 'New World' Symphony by Antonin Dvorak]

Antonin Dvorak’s 9th Symphony is one that Dr. Aubin has played plenty of times as a French Hornist. But Saturday’s JSO concert will be his first time conducting it. So how does he revitalize a piece he already knows by heart? "The more I study," reflects Aubin, "the more I realize that one of the things that I can do to find that interpretation is to sing and play through the various parts. You know, I'm noticing a second violin part that often times gets overshadowed, and so just like maybe bringing that up a hint. Note lengths, sometimes. Consider repeats, so if you listen to this,a lot of people don't repeat the exposition, so I will!" laughs Aubin. "So it's a lot of stuff like that. But it's fun because you can come to it at a different level right away. I mean, the Liebermann, I'm gonna have to learn the notes, the rhythms, how the melody goes. Dvorak's already in my head, so I have to rediscover."

[Musical excerpt of movement IV. Allegro con fuoco from the 'New World' Symphony by Antonin Dvorak]

Rediscover Dvorak’s New World Symphony and discover new pieces by Johnathan Bruce Brown and Lowell Liebermann with Dr. Matthew Aubin and the JSO’s season ending concert, American Voices, this Saturday night at the Potter Center. Tickets and more info at JacksonSymphony.org