The Helena Symphony continues its 65th Season on Saturday, February 29 at 7:30 p.m. in the Helena Civic Center with two loved masterpieces: acclaimed American Pianist Carl Cranmer performing GERSHWIN’s jazzy Piano Concerto in F, and the HSO presenting DVOŘÁK’s musical postcard from America – Symphony No. 9, From the New World.

At a late-night party typical of the Jazz Age, Pianist GEORGE GERSHWIN was overheard pondering if his music would “be heard a hundred years from now.”  “It will,” a friend remarked, “if you are around to play it.”  As one of the first notable American composers, Gershwin made the first attempts to close the gap between “popular” music and “serious” music.  While some classical music purists still do not fully accept Gershwin into the circles of classical music completely, no one can deny Gershwin’s uncanny ability as a songwriter.

Gershwin wanted to compose a lengthier and more structured concerto as in the style established by Mozart and Beethoven.  Originally titled the New York Concerto, the new work was to have the conventional three movements; however, Gershwin was still Gershwin, and the Piano Concerto in F is complete with his signature song-like melodies, brilliant pacing, and most of all, the fusion of jazz with the more formal symphonic music.  “Like most Gershwin works, the Concerto in F has a natural feeling to it – perhaps why most of Gershwin’s music is so easily remembered,” explained Music Director Allan R. Scott.  “The work is memorable from start to finish and crammed with many inspired jazz-inspired ideas that perfectly combine with conventional musical traditions.”

PIANIST CARL CRANMER made his debut with The Philadelphia Orchestra at the age of nine. He has performed with the HSO before and returns to perform Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F.  For the past four decades, Mr. Cranmer has appeared in concert with orchestras around the world, including the Royal Philharmonic of England, the Gulbenkian Orquesta of Portugal, and Russia Philharmonia.  A graduate of the Juilliard Orchestra, Mr. Cranmer has performed in Austria, Japan, Canada, France, England, Panama, Spain, Korea, and throughout the United States.  As a noted recording artist, he has recorded works by Poulenc, Chopin, Fauré, Granados, Liszt, Saint-Saëns, Beethoven, and every work composed for piano by Samuel Barber.

Antonín Dvořák asked American composers, “What is American music?  What are its origins?”  His internationally loved Symphony No. 9, From the New World was composed as a musical postcard from America to his native Czech homeland in 1893.  The well-known melody in the second movement eventually became the American folk tune “Goin’ Home,” but only long after the Ninth Symphony had been composed.  With the Carnegie Hall premiere, the Ninth Symphony became an overnight sensation.  Following each movement, Dvořák was obliged to rise and bow from his seat, and at the end of the evening, he was greeted with thunderous cheering and applause.  Within several years, From the New World made similar conquests of virtually every musical capital in the world.  By 1904, the year of Dvořák’s death, the Ninth Symphony was already established as one of the most popular symphonies ever written – a position, over one hundred years later, it still enjoys.

Single concert tickets can be purchased ($55-$15 plus a $5 transaction fee) online at www.helenasymphony.org, by calling the Symphony Box Office (406.442.1860), or visiting the Symphony Box Office located on the Walking Mall at the Livestock Building (2 N. Last Chance Gulch, Suite 1) between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.  Tickets for other Masterworks Concerts and the Benefit Concert at Montana Ting are also on sale and selling fast.

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