The Linfield Chamber Orchestra celebrated its 20th anniversary from April 11-16 with the “Libby Larsen Festival,” a series of events featuring renowned American composer Libby Larsen.
The festival will culminate in two concerts on April 15 and 16 that will feature the world premiere of “Moabit Sonnets,” a commission piece composed by Larsen for the LCO’s anniversary.
The LCO will perform Larsen’s work with guest vocalists at 8 p.m. April 15 in Ice Auditorium, with a repeat performance at 3 p.m. on April 16. The concert will also include performances of works by Mozart, Elgar, Brahms and Haydn.
During her time on campus, Larsen visited classes, watched student performances of her works, discussed musical concepts and rehearsed her new piece with the LCO and guest vocalists.
“We’re honored and thrilled that Larsen was able to accept the invitation, that she agreed to accept the commission to write a work
especially for the Linfield Chamber Orchestra and that she’s been here with us all week collaborating with students, faculty and staff who have been studying her music and getting it ready for performance,” Faun Tiedge, professor of music, chair of the department of music and liaison officer for the LCO, said.
Rehearsing the piece with students has gone well, Larsen said.
“I was not [sure] that the piece would resonate with the students. That was a risk I took, but actually the opposite has happened,” she said. “The students resonated really well with the piece — the music of the piece, the ideas behind the piece and the texts.”
Larsen also held a residency at Linfield in 1990, which was one reason why the LCO chose to invite her for its 20th anniversary, Tiedge said.
“Libby Larsen’s name came up right away because [she] was here in 1990. So this is a return visit,” she said. “In that time, she has become one of the world’s most well-known, prolific, highly-published, often-performed and … award-winning composer of great acclaim.”
The commissioned work sets music to the text of a series of poems written by Albrecht Haushofer, an official in the Nazi party, who later became a part of the underground resistance to Hitler’s regime. He wrote his “Moabit Sonnets” after being imprisoned in the Berlin-Moabit prison for his actions. He was later executed by the SS guards.
Larsen discussed the political significance of Haushofen and her composition with students and faculty April 14 during a Pizza and Politics event hosted by the Department of Political Science.
At the event, Larsen said she chose to use 11 of the 80 sonnets Haushofer wrote in her piece. She said she chose to use poems that were about guilt, complicity and parables of power rather than those about Haushofer’s relationships with his family and nature.
“One of the lessons from the Third Reich is that a people of a country can be complicit in action or can choose to put the action in check because of moral values,” she said. “I’m interested in that because I am interested in what’s going on in America today.”
The composition will feature the 12-tone technique first developed by Austrian-American composer Arnold Schoenberg during the same time that Hitler rose to power. The technique gives equal weight to all 12 pitches in an octave and is known for its dissonant sound.
She said that Schoenberg developed the system during a tumultuous time in Germany and that the sound fits the historical and philosophical setting of the piece.
Tiedge said the technique will be a welcomed change in the LCO playlist.
“I think it’ll be interesting to have this piece premiere for our subscription audience because, in general, the Linfield Chamber Orchestra plays much more classic and romantic music,” Tiedge said. “To offer a truly 21st century piece in a modern musical language will be a good
experience for the audience.”
Larsen will also give a lecture before each performance at 7 p.m. April 15 and 2 p.m. April 16. Both will take place in Jonasson Hall.
Tickets are free at the door with student ID. To get tickets in advance, call 503-883-263.
Braden Smith/Managing editor
Braden Smith can be reached at email@example.com.