Experiences with nature are a common thread that weaves through all living beings, so it's no surprise that humans have been writing music inspired by nature since the beginning of time. This program begins with Debussy's Danses sacrée et profane, a solo piece for harp and orchestra, and a harp repertoire's mainstay. These contrasting dances conjure a mystical and spiritual natural world. Danse sacrée creates a relaxed and eerie mood, while Danse profane is more energetic, with luscious harp glissandi and solo work overlaying pulsating string rhythms.
Beethoven's Symphony No. 6, Pastoral, is a jaunt through the Austrian countryside. Beethoven was a lover of nature and frequently traveled to rural areas to compose. The symphony is comprised of five movements, each based on a different experience in nature. The joyful first movement is entitled "Awakening of cheerful feelings on arrival in the countryside," followed by the idyllic second movement, "Scene by the brook." Joy emanates from Movement 3, "Merry gathering of country folk," but the party gets rained on with Movement 4, "Thunder, Storm." Finally, the clouds part, and the sun shines through with Movement 5, "Shepherd's song, Cheerful and thankful feelings after the storm." Pastoral is one of Beethoven's few explicitly programmatic works and is a true masterpiece for all to behold.
Our program closes with The Moldau, a symphonic poem composed by Smetana. This piece follows the flow of the Vltava River from its source in the mountains of the Bohemian Forest, through the Czech countryside, to the city of Prague. The piece opens with light rippling figures represented two mountain springs that eventually converge to become a mighty river, symbolized by a thickly orchestrated, stately theme. The river passes scenes of rural life, water nymphs, rapids, then finally reaches Prague and slowly dissipates in the distance.