NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

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April 18, 2013

Feel like dancing

Dance-like quality to symphony's concert

The first audience to hear Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony 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 Sunday, when they play Beethoven’s Seventh at The Governor’s Academy in Byfield. The orchestra will also give an earlier performance at Abbott Hall in Marblehead one week from tonight.

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 dance-like symphony,” Palma said.

After making the Seventh 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 Opus 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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