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Davis, California

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

UC Davis Symphony Orchestra presents “Love, Death, and Pranks”

The UC Davis Symphony Orchestra (UCDSO) will be presenting its fall concert, “Love, Death, and Pranks” at the Mondavi Center’s Jackson Hall on Saturday at 7 p.m. The concert will be conducted by Christian Baldini, music director of UCDSO, and will feature a variety of works from Europe’s romantic era.

The concert is set to showcase four composers from the Austro-Germanic tradition. The program will begin with an overture to Mozart’s Idomeneo, followed by Gustav Mahler’s Rückert Lieder, Richard Wagner’s Vorspiel und Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde and end with Richard Strauss’ Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche.

Alexander Stepans, a fourth-year music and political science double major, has been playing the horn for the orchestra since his first year at UC Davis. Stepans will be performing a big horn solo in Till Eulenspiegels, a tone poem, which describes the story of Till Eulenspiegel, a figure in German folklore. Although he has performed the solo several times for auditions, this will be Stepans’ first time performing it in concert.

Till Eulenspiegels has an enormously difficult, but rewarding horn part,” Stepans said. “It has a very exposed solo at the beginning that sets the tone for the entire piece. Having played this excerpt for auditions many times, it is exciting to finally play it in a concert.”

Renowned soloist Blythe Gaissert will accompany the orchestra during Rückert Lieder, a musical piece based on poems written by Friedrich Rückert. Gaissert, a mezzo-soprano, met Baldini while he was conducting an opera in England. Baldini was impressed with Gaissert’s talent and subsequently invited her to perform with his symphony.

“I have worked with [Baldini] before and I am very excited because I think he is such an incredible musician,” Gaissert said. “Rückert Lieder is one of the most moving works to perform because everyone can identify with the sentiments expressed.”

Carrie Hennessey, a local soprano soloist from Sacramento, will also accompany the orchestra during Liebestod, a piece from Wagner’s opera Tristan und Isolde, which is literally translated to mean “love death.”

According to Baldini, the four distinct pieces he selected for the concert provide a wide breadth of expression, which showcases the orchestra’s versatile talent.

“[The pieces] show how differently the orchestra can sound depending on what they are playing,” Baldini said. “We don’t tackle every piece of music in the same way.”

Philip Daley, concert manager for the UC Davis Music Department and an alumnus of the department and the symphony himself, encourages students to attend the concert because of the increasingly rare opportunity to listen to live music.

“Truly enjoying music happens by listening to it in person, not through a pair of headphones, and the UC Davis Symphony provides a perfect opportunity to do so,” Daley said.

Similarly, Baldini encourages students to attend the concert because of his love for music and his belief that it can change lives.

“Music can add much to our lives. We are always exposed to music in the movies, with video games, and we tend to also need music when we are sad, or happy, or need to celebrate something,” Baldini said. “Witnessing a live performance by a symphony orchestra can be one of the most invigorating and inspiring experiences in life.”

Tickets for “Love, Death, and Pranks” can be purchased at the Mondavi Ticket Office or online at tickets.mondaviarts.org for $8 students and children, and $12-17 adults depending on seating.

Photo Courtesy Bill Hollingshead


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