UVU Symphony Orchestra – “Antonin Dvorak’s Symphony No. 8 in G Major, Op. 88”

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The UVU Symphony Orchestra opened their performance with a modern piece by Mason Bates called “Mothership.” Bates described it as “a mothership that is ‘docked’ by several visiting soloists, who offer brief but virtuosic riffs on the work’s thematic material over action-packed electro-acoustic orchestral figuration.” Conducted by UVU’s director of Bands, Thomas Keck, this piece energetically blends elements of the scherzo and Bate’s DJ-ing talents. It showed how the orchestra can be reimagined to include new and interesting sounds.

From there Keck introduced guest conductor, Robert Baldwin, for the main piece, “Antonin Dvorak’s Symphony No. 8 in G Major, Op. 88.” Baldwin took over for UVU’s own Cheung Chau who is on hiatus conducting a professional symphony in China and will be returning next year. Baldwin is music director of the Salt Lake Symphony and director of Orchestral Activities at the University of Utah. The UVU Symphony Orchestra benefited tremendously from his contribution.

Antonin Dvorak born in Bohemia, now the Czech Republic, rose to recognition after none other than Brahms, impressed with his talent, introduced him to his publisher, Simrock, which went on to produce his work. From there Dvorak quickly began to fulfill the promise that Brahms saw in him. Today he is recognized as one of the greatest composers ever to live. Dvorak also went on to become the director of the National Conservatory of Music of America in New York. He heavily influenced America in the development of our own orchestral identity, which the addition of “Mothership” was meant to showcase.

Dvorak’s own identity as a Czech can be heard in his “Symphony No. 8.” Written in the seclusion of his country home in Vysoka, this piece draws on that idyllic setting. As cheerful and tranquil as it is, it is at times punctuated with a deep, troubled undertone. Some have noted that the somberness lurking within the symphony could have been influenced by the loss of Dvorak’s three children twelve years previously. Despite all that, the symphony remains heavily optimistic as if the joy of life can overcome anything. The finale begins with a trumpeting fanfare and the tension excitedly rises to a crescendo. With a final reflective goodbye, it terminates with a vibrant step toward a bright future. 

The UVU Symphony Orchestra handled this rendition of a classic expertly. Anyone can come to appreciate the levels of beauty and rich complexity involved with this piece. The time and effort each of the artists put into painstakingly practicing for this performance to join their individual talents together into a powerful and moving single voice was readily apparent and was completely deserving of the standing ovation they received at the end.