80th Anniversary of The Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra Kicks Off October 17th with ‘A Rivers Tale’

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    icon Sep 24, 2015
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Exciting times await The Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra as this storied  and world-class artistic entity celebrates its 80th Anniversary of  bringing top-level and innovative creativity to the finely tuned ears of audiences populating the Great Lakes Bay.

With former Director Brett Mitchell departing  to pursue duties with the Cleveland Orchestra, the legacy of innovative musical leadership that has fueled the SBSO – from the visionary innovation of the late Leo Najar and Patrick Flynn, up through its current landmark 80th celebratory anniversary year – has prompted the SBSO Board of Directors to adopt an equally innovative approach by presenting A Signature Season of concert performances that will showcase the talents of five different musical directors, each delivering their own translation & mark to each of the five thematic concerts slated for the 2015-16 season.

Kicking off the season debut on Saturday, October 9th, will be conductor Alexander Platt assembling a thematic program entitled A River’s Tale that will take audiences through a journey embracing Mussorgsky’s Dawn at the Moscow River, Thomson’s Two Pictures for Orchestra, Smetana’s The Moldau, and Braham’s Symphony No. 2.

Alexander Platt is the newly-appointed Music Director of the Minnesota Philharmonic Orchestra and also Music Director of the Wisconsin Philharmonic, the La Crosse Symphony Orchestra, and the Grand Forks Symphony Orchestra. He spends his summers in the legendary Woodstock, New York as Music Director of the Maverick Concerts and recently concluded 12 seasons as Resident Conductor and Music Advisor of Chicago Opera Theater. Mr. Platt has guest conducted with many symphonies throughout the U.S. and Europe.

A graduate of Yale College, King’s College Cambridge, and conducting fellowships at both Aspen and Tanglewood, in 2013 he made his debut at the Ravinia Festival, the summer home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, to high praise in the Chicago Tribune. He has also recorded for Minnesota Public Radio, NPR, and the BBC; and his Cedile Records disc with Rachel Barton of Max Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy is still often heard on radio stations across America..

Alexander attributes the cultivation of his interest in classical music to the attribute of good timing – as important in music as it is in life.

“I was lucky,” he admits. “Despite my father having a strong baritone voice, my parents were not musical. But in those halcyon  days of the 1970s and ‘80s, I was blessed to grow up in a community where music was everywhere. A great music program existed in the schools, and in the second grade I was playing a recorder. By fourth grade I was starting violin and shall never forget being a kid in my Congregational church choir on Christmas Eve, taking part in a complete performance of Carl Orff’s ‘The Christmas Story’. Of course, back then, we took it all for granted. Now – as we’d say in Chicago  - not so much. So it was only natural that I would gravitate towards music. I am just a product of that era.”

Alexander went about translating and rendering the compositions that will be featured in A River’s Tale with the assistance of Samuel Jones, who worked with him on developing the program.

“This program celebrates Saginaw being a river city,” he reflects. “Many years ago I spent three wonderful years being a guest conductor in Aalborg, Denmark, which is a beautiful small city on the North Sea. Of course Saginaw is also a river city and that river eventually meets Lake Huron, which compared to most lakes is really like a sea – so this program actually means a lot to me, as it brings back a lot of good memories.”

“The four pieces that comprise the evening’s first half of the program are so different, yet so complimentary,” continues Alexander. “Mussorgsky’s Dawn on the Moscow River Is Russian, much like an Orthodox icon: so simple, so mysterious, so opaque. Virgil Thomson was one of the original "Americans in Paris" after World War I; his music here is both suave & sophisticated, yet those old hymns and chorales from the Baptist church of his Missouri youth  are always there in the background. Smetana was the great musical pillar of 19th-century Czech nationalism, and in his capable hands, The Moldau goes on his picturesque journey to the mighty Elbe. As for Johann Strauss's waltz "The Blue Danube", what can I say, apart from what from a couple of my German friends in Chicago said: "Ja, naturlich."

“The second half of the night will be devoted to Brahms's Second Symphony -- which was written nowhere near a river, but rather, on a summer holiday in the mountains. That said, the ideas in the Brahms Second Symphony, I think, rather  flow like a river -  indeed it is like one idea, out of which many tributaries flow.”

How does Platt go about translating & rendering these works with the orchestra? Does he try to bring out strengths & textures within the composition that appeal directly to him; and what does he feel his role is as a conductor in rendering these works?

Honestly, you have very fine musicians at the SBSO, and I feel that the my job is to "build the box" in order to create the space in which they can play,” he states. “They don't need some conductor always stopping them and telling them how smart he is.”

“I'm so much looking forward to working with the SBSO and getting to know your community -- there's so much to learn, and so much to do!”

Tickets for ‘A River’s Tale’, the Season Opener for the Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra at The Temple Theatre can be purchased by going to www.saginawbayorchestra.com or phoning the Temple Theatre Box Office at 989-755-6471.  The performance takes place at 8:00 PM on Saturday, October 17th.

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