The Kentucky Symphony Orchestra Goes Silent...for 4'33"

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The KSO serves up a full evening of 20th century masterpieces by Jean Sibelius, Maurice Ravel and Igor Stravinsky with a garnish of the absurd by John Cage.

KSO performing at Florence Baptist Church at Mt. Zion

“I think, for the orchestra, avoiding eye contact with each other and the conductor will be essential to rendering a convincing performance of the work” — James Cassidy

The Kentucky Symphony Orchestra has performed a mountain of repertoire in its 22 years, yet still hasn’t played some of the best-known works in the orchestral repertoire. This season’s All-20th century theme has allowed music director James Cassidy to narrow the focus and add to the orchestra’s bucket-list of famous works. Keeping with the KSO's flair for truly unique concert experiences, the audience will see the orchestra up-close and personal as several on-stage cameras will offer audience members various shots of the musicians simulcast live on three video screens suspended in the back and above the stage. Cassidy has often described the traditional orchestral setting as “a sea of penguins” (referring to the conventional black and white concert attire). “Allowing everyone to see performers close up offers a different perspective of the teamwork required of 70+ individuals to paint a sonic canvas that we call symphonic music,” said Cassidy.

The evening opens with Jean Sibelius’s turn of the century Finlandia. The work written in 1899-1900 features rousing and turbulent music, evoking the national struggle of the Finnish people under Russian oppression. At the end Sibelius writes a calming hymn that was later adopted as the melody to the Christian hymn “Be Still My Soul.” The Finlandia hymn today remains a popular Finnish national song (much like our “America the Beautiful”). The general populace may recognize the piece from its prominent use in Bruce Willis’s 1990 Die Hard 2: Die Harder, or perhaps as the name of a premium vodka.

The 1952 work 4’33” by John Cage “for any instrument or combination of instruments” will receive the full orchestral treatment. The work in three movements offers exactly four minutes and 33 seconds of complete silence. The performers turn pages (quietly), but no notes or sounds are emitted. “John Cage was an experimental composer and likely took a cue from Theatre of the Absurd (i.e. Beckett, Pinter)." said conductor James Cassidy. Cage studied Zen Buddhism in the late 1940s, and believed that any ambient sounds may constitute music. In a 1982 interview, and on numerous occasions, Cage stated that 4’33” was, in his opinion, his most important work.

“I think, for the orchestra, avoiding eye contact with each other and the conductor will be essential to rendering a convincing performance of the work,” said Cassidy. “It will be a different experience for all.”

In 1920 Maurice Ravel conceived “La Valse” as a choreographed poem and tribute to the waltz form and its champion Johann Strauss II. Originally titled “Vienna” the work, in one-movement for large orchestra, is often described as a metaphor for the predicament of European civilization following World War I.

Following intermission the KSO crosses Igor Stravinsky’s 1947 edition of the puppet ballet Petroushka off the Symphony’s bucket-list, completing KSO performances of all three of the composer’s large ballet scores — The Firebird (performed in 1999) and The Rite of Spring (1997). Given the variety and one-of-a-kind presentations that have distinguished KSO programming for 22 years, the opportunity to simply perform some of the greatest works in the orchestral repertoire makes a rare and exciting event.

Put on your discerning eyes and ears and enjoy an evening of 20th century classics and KSO premieres 8:00 p.m., Saturday, November 22 at Florence Baptist Church at Mt. Zion. Tickets are $19, $27, $35 (children 6-18 receive 50% off) and are available online, by phone or at the door. / (859) 431-6216.

About the KSO: The Kentucky Symphony Orchestra takes the “phony” out of symphony through thematic concerts that culturally enrich, educate and entertain the residents of Northern Kentucky and Greater Cincinnati. The KSO performs throughout Northern Kentucky performing three series of concerts, for the schools, in the parks and at various indoor venues.

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James R. Cassidy
Kentucky Symphony Orchestra
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