YAKIMA, Wash. -- The Yakima Symphony Orchestra’s second concert in this summer’s performance series is titled after its opening work, the overture to Giuseppe Verdi’s opera La forza del destino (“The Force of Destiny”). The idea of an ominous and inescapable Fate is central to all the music on the program.
The major work on the program is Tchaikovsky’s gripping Fourth Symphony, among the defining symphonic creations of the late 19th century. Inspired by Beethoven’s Fifth, the symphony opens with a famous “fate” motif in the brass, which periodically returns to destroy the “illusions” of happiness and nostalgia that intervene through the course of its four movements.
Featuring rustic dance music and Russian folk tunes, Tchaikovsky’s symphony merges the musical language of ballet and opera into symphonic form, with an unforgettably ferocious finale.
Verdi’s opera premiered in Russia 15 years before Tchaikovsky’s symphony, but it was not until its 1869 Italian premiere that the now-famous overture was first presented. It too begins with a “fate” motif, a dramatic three-note gesture in the brass that returns throughout the opera to color even the most glorious and lyrical melodies with a tinge of grim despair.
The blazing overture has since become a staple of symphonic programs.
Though the opera itself explores the same themes of fate and passion, orchestral excerpts from PietroMascagni’s one-act Cavalleria rusticana provide a more tranquil interlude for this concert. The opera opens with a “Prelude and Siciliana” evoking the serenity of Easter morning in a small Italian village, but with hints of the turmoil to come.
The “Intermezzo,” performed during the opera with an empty stage, provides a peaceful and spiritual contrast to the passion and violence of the unfolding plot; it was later used to similar effect in the opening credits for the film “Raging Bull.”
• David Rogers is executive director of the Yakima Symphony Orchestra. Email him at email@example.com or call 509-248-1414.