second season concert for The University of Southern Mississippi
Symphony Orchestra Nov. 4 in Bennett Auditorium will feature two
School of Music faculty artists, Dr. Lois Leventhal, piano, and
Dr. Richard Perry, tuba.
The "Twice as Grand" concert opens with
Leventhal performing with the orchestra on Maurice Ravel's Concerto
for Left Hand. Paul Wittgenstein, a concert pianist, who had lost
his right hand in World War I, originally commissioned the work
around 1930. A serious work, but with some lighter moments, it has
been acclaimed as Ravel's most dramatic composition.
Ravel himself commented that he "used a style
which is much more in keeping with the consciously imposing style
of the traditional style" on his left-handed concerto. It is
one long movement divided into Lento and Allegro sections. A long
orchestral section avoids the first appearance of the soloist until
a climax brings in the piano.
This technique was designed to show, from the beginning,
that single-hand limitations do not prevent extraordinary virtuosity.
Ravel described this as being "like an improvisation."
Following the piano concerto, the orchestra welcomes
Perry to the stage to perform John Williams' Tuba Concerto. A modern,
popular composer who wrote the piece for Chester Schmitz, tubist
of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1984-85 for the centennial of
the Boston Pops, Williams has a penchant for the tuba sound-for
its quality of "breathing." The sound is, particularly
for Williams, something large and mysterious and sometimes-but not
Connoisseurs of Williams' film scores will recall
that the tuba represented the character Jabba the Hutt, presented
late in the "Star Wars" trilogy. His work was also featured
in the Mother Ship duet in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind"
and in passages of "E.T.," perhaps his most highly rated
For this concerto, Williams treats the tuba as a lively,
skipping youngster with a lyric quality, yet with a certain degree
of heft, according to musicologist Steven Ledbetter, who writes
program notes for the Southern Miss orchestra, among others. The
work is laid out in the normal three movements, but with no breaks
"I had not performed the (Williams) piece before,
but it had been on my 'to-do' list for years," Perry said.
"There are very few tuba works by 'named' composers, so that
alone makes it significant, at least to me. It's also one of the
most challenging pieces that I've played!"
Music director for the orchestra, Dr. Jay Dean, likes
the combination of guest performers for this concert. "This
program is a brilliant combination of diverse composers, instruments
and performers. Any concert should be like a great meal-a great
appetizer, entrée and dessert. That is what this concert
will give to the audience-a well-balanced musical meal."
Following intermission, the orchestra will perform
Ludwig Beethoven's Symphony No. 3 in E-flat ("The Eroica"),
op. 55. "Eroica" often has been tied to the composer's
contradictory feelings about Napoleon. Ledbetter said Beethoven
first wanted to compose a work in honor of the pragmatic leader
as first consul-as a spokesman for a more democratic government
But, when Napoleon declared himself emperor in 1805,
Beethoven flew into a rage and cried out, "Is he then, too,
nothing more than an ordinary human being? Now he, too, will trample
on all the rights of man and indulge only his ambition."
During this time, Beethoven was struggling with his
own demon--his increasing deafness. His powerful works written during
this time were attributed to his own "wresting control of his
fate from a malign universe," according to Ledbetter.
"We are excited about performing this piece on
the concert program," Dean said. "It is a one of the most
well-known orchestral masterpieces ever written. From a musical
point of view, it changed the history of music because of its bold
Perry is assistant professor of tuba and euphonium
at Southern Miss, where he directs the Tuba-Euphonium Ensemble and
performs with the Southern Arts Brass Quintet. He joined the faculty
in the fall of 2000. Perry has been active as a clinician and performer
throughout the Southeast, including appearances at the University
of Alabama, Auburn University, the University of Kentucky, and Valdosta
He has been a featured performer at regional, national,
and international conferences as a soloist and an ensemble player.
He has released two CDs with the Modern Jazz Tuba Project that have
received critical acclaim.
Leventhal received her doctorate of music at Indiana
University and is a professor of music at Southern Miss. In 1991,
she was the recipient of The University of Southern Mississippi's
Award for Faculty Excellence. Her performing career includes concerto
appearances throughout Mississippi, as well as solo and chamber
recitals in Chicago, New York, London and, under the auspices of
the United States Information Agency, Argentina and Uruguay.
Her performances have been broadcast widely and may
also be heard on compact disc on Crystal and Albany labels with
colleague Lawrence Gwozdz, saxophonist.
The Southern Miss Symphony Orchestra's 2004-05 season
is sponsored by BancorpSouth. Tickets for the 7:30 p.m. concert
are $18, $16, and $14 and may be purchased at the Southern Miss
Ticket Office by calling (601) 266-5418 or 800-844-8425. Tickets
may be ordered online at www.usm.edu/tickets. For more information
on the symphony season, visit www.usm.edu/symphony.