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October 15, 1982 - Image 17

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The Michigan Daily, 1982-10-15
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By Robert Cassard
Prague Symphony
Hill Auditorium
8:30 p.m. Thursday, October 21
N ONLY ITS second Ann Arbor
appearance, one of Europe's finest
symphonic ensembles will take to the
stage of Hill Auditorium. The Prague
Symphony Orchestra, one of
Czechoslovakia's two great orchestras
(along with the Czech Philharmonic)
comes as part of this year's Choral
Union Series presented by the Univer-
sity Musical Society.
Prague was once known as "the con-
servatory of Europe," and though it has
lost that reputation within recent
history, it is still the cultural center of
Bohemia and retains numerous gems
suggestive of its past glory. The Prague
Symphony is one of these having an ex-
cellent international reputation based
on over 40 concert tours worldwide.
The orchestra was founded in 1934 as
the Symphony Orchestra FOK (Film-
Opera-Koncert), a multi-purpose en-
semble working primarily in film
recording. In 1952, the orchestra.
became part of the Prague City Council
due to its "artistic, political, and social
significance," and adopted its present
name. As a concert orchestra, the sym-
phony worked under many of the
greatest Czech conductors, among
them, Vaclav Neumann, Jiri
Behlolavek, and Vladimir Valek, who
will lead the musicians on Thursday.
Valek, a native Czechoslovakian, is.
one of Europe's best young conductors.
Although he has not yet come into
renown internationally, his rise to fame
in his homeland has been rapid and
well-deserving. He is a regular conduc-
tor for the Czech Philharmonic, the
Czech Radio Symphony, the Orchestra
Puellarum Pragensis, as well as the
Prague Symphony. Early in his career,
Valek founded the Dvorak Chamber
He is one of his country's most
popular conductors and has made over
500 successful recordings since his

graduation from the Prague Academy
of Arts in 1962. If these recordings offer
any indication, his performance here
should be dynamic though traditional in
The program promises to be in-
teresting though possibly a bit uneven
as the orchestra performs two pieces
from Smetana's Ma Vlast: "The
Moldau," and "From Bohemia's
Forests andMeadows;" Tchaikovsky's
Symphony No. 5; and Haydn's Trumpet
Concerto in E-flat, a piece which, to me,
seems slightly less congruous with the
others than the Castelnuovo-Tedesco
Guitar Concerto in D for which it was
The first composer on the program,
Smetana, was an avid Bohemian
nationalist who Stokowski called "the
poet laureate of his country, expressing
the joys and sorrows of his people. . . in
the international language of music."
Notwithstanding his love for Bohemia,
Smetana found it difficult to live at
home under the restrictions brought on
by the unsuccessful revolution of 1848,
so accepted an offer to conduct the or-
chestra of Goteborg, Sweden, a position
he held for five years.
He returned home following the
defeat of the Austrian forces by Italy
and quickly became one of the leaders
of the new cultural movement which
was flowering because of the region's
new political autonomy and total
freedom of expression. Smetana's
reputation flourished as a composer of
patriotic operas (his second opera, The
Bartered Bride, brought him im-
mediate and widespread acclaim) and
as principal conductor of the National
In the course of time, Smetana's con-
ductorship came into disfavor, a fact
which brought on nervous disorders
that left him completely deaf by the fall
of 1874. He continued to compose,
however, and produced a cycle of six
symphonic poems collectively known
as Ma Vlast (My Country) which in-
cludes the two works to be performed
this Thursday. Significantly, Smetana
himself dedicated the entire collection
to the city of Prague where it is the
staple in concert programs.
This is the kind of Bohemian master-
piece which is the specialty of the
Prague Symphony. While "From
Bohemia's Forests and Meadows"
beautifully captures the feeling of
Smetana's landscape, it is outshone by
"Vltava" (The Moldau), almost cer-
tainly Smetana's most stirring sym-

phonic creation.
The composer's own program for the
piece describes the river s origin as
"two springs, one warm, the other cold,
that flow together into a brook and
which later become the Moldau." The
musical progression from spring to
brook to river is vividly evoked by the
"river" theme which, using an old
Czech folk song as its basis, opens the
piece and carries us to the forests and
meadows of Sumava, whererhunting
horns may be heard, past a lively
peasant wedding ceremony, a dance of
water ,nymphs by moonlight, over a
great stretch of rapids and, finally, to a
great valley where we pass the historic
sites of Prague and can hear the noble
song of the Vysehrad. Music this close
to home will undoubtedly be played
superbly by the members of the Prague
Symphony, Smetana's fellow coun-
Haydn, the third composer on the
program, was a famous musician at
home. in Austria, yet was even more
celebrated in England where Oxford
awarded him a Doctor of Music degree
and the King invited him to remain
permanently (an honor he graciously
declined). Despite all this, he found
time to be a prolific composer whose
music is marked by a warmth, wit, and
Although he is known primarilyhfor
his pristine classical symphonies which
number over 100, he also produced forty
quartets, many operas, and other
assorted works. Oddly, the Trumpet
Concerto in E-flat was not a prominent
part of the trumpet repertoire until the
late 1930's despite its obvious attrac-
As it was written just after the jnven-
tion of the key trumpet (which, for the
first time, could play all the notes of the
chromatic scale), the Concerto is one of
the first to remain a challenge on the
modern valve trumpet. The first
movement Allegro is in sonata form,
the orchestra introducing the trumpet
after which it plays themaindtheme
through the exposition and develop-
ment, shifting for awhile to C Minor and
finally back into E-flat Major for the
The trumpet really shows off its
acrobatic skill in the third movement
Allegro. The violins pass the melody to
the woodwinds who then pass it to the
trumpet. The rondo form works
beautifully to make this a light and
spectacular finale. Though the concerto
is not so formidable from a technical

standpoint, it requires a soloist who can
impart an elusive warmth to it and
work beyond the technical sphere to one
where a combination of relaxed tone
and cracker-jack rhythmic and melodic
precision blend.
Vladislav Kozderka, principal trum-
pet for the Prague Symphony and
Thursday's scheduled soloist, seems to
have the credentials for the task,
having triumphed in competitions and
concerts all over Europe, including
Germany and Austria. Very much may
depend upon the mood of the audience
and performers at the time of the con-
cert, for this -music is not the or-
chestra's forte and will be in sharp con-
trast to the Smetana pieces.
After a ten-year creative "dry-spell"
of sorts, Tchaikovsky's Fifth Sym-
phony, second in the concert, was a
crucial "comeback" piece, his first
truly important work after the Violin
Concerto of 1878. In the wake of heavy
criticism, the composer was plagued by
self-doubt both during and after the
composition of the symphony and he
went so far as to call it "superfluous,
patchy, and insincere.''
Its first performances in Russia were
not very well received but it became a
success in other countries under
Tchaikovsky's own direction. While this
symphony is undeniably a classic, it
bears a striking resemblance to
another "Fifth"-that of Beethoven-in
its achievement of victory only through
great struggle. Tchaikovsky himself
may not have liked the episodic nature
of the work; it contrasts greatly with
the unity of both the Fourth and Sixth
The Fifth, in fact, follows a loose,
balletic form as opposed to the ar-
chitectural rigidity usually found in
other symphonies. Regardless of all
this, the Fifth seems destined to eternal
popularity both for its inspired
melodies and the emotional effect of its
successful "struggle toward victory."
The "struggle" is apparent in the fir-
st three movements. The principal sub-
ject which opens the symphony (as
played by the clarinets), sounds rather
sinister in the key of E Minor. It recurs,
still in a minor tonality, once in the
trumpets and later in the bassoons and
trombones during the coda of the
second movement, and is heard once
again in the clarinets and bassoons in
the coda of the third movement.
The "victory" occurs at the outset of
the finale when the theme takes on
heroic proportions in its new E Major
tonality and retains them right up to the
final measures of the work. This is the
apotheosis of the symphony and its
emotional impact upon the listener is
strong. Beginning with a long Andante
maestoso introduction, a tympani roll
then opens the principal (Allegro
vivace) section which starts with a
theme in the strings and progresses to
another theme in the woodwinds and
later in the violins.
The development leads to a climax
with the principal subject in the brass.
A moment of silence heralds the coda
where the subject appears in full
Russian pomp and circumstance. This
is another work which the Prague Sym-
phony should really dig into. The
Russians and Bohemians express
themselves with a certain similarity in
music, and Tchaikovsky's melodies
from a Bohemian point of view should
provide us with a moving performance
of the Fifth Symphony and a fitting
climax to the concert.

cit y
By Susan Makuch
Second City
Michigan Theatre
8 p.m. Friday, October 15
( T HE ENTIRE recent tradition
(Tof American theatrical satire
can be summed up in three words: 'The
Second City.' " Clive Barnes wrote this
13 years ago in the New York Times.
That was 10 years after the group's in-
ception, and the legacy still continues
Second City, the improvisational
group originating in Chicago, will be
visiting the Ann Arbor area tonight at 8
p.m. The performance will benefit the
Michigan Theater Renovation Project.
Hardly anyone thought that an im-
provisational troupe started in an old
Chinese laundry in 1959 would sub-
sequently become a leading source of
comedic talent in just a few short years.
But within the first 10 years fame thrust
upon such members as Alan Arkin,
Mike Nichols, Elaine May, Jerry
Stiller, and Anne Meara put the troupe
in the spotlight. "These players are
successes because they were allowed to
perform anything," observes Joyce
Sloane, the associate producer of
Second City for the last 22 years.
"It's the best training in the world to
be allowed to fail in front of an audien-
ce," Sloane says. Gilda Radner; a for-
mer citizen of the Second City, learned
a great deal about this, according t
Ia k a a

Sloane. "Gilda occasionally would go
blank while onstage, everybody does.
Well, the one thing an actor must do in
that situaton is trust his fellow actors.
IThat's the big thing-people will help
you move into the scene, but you must
never say 'no' or leave the stage. Those
are the rules.
"her inclination was always to leave
the stage," Sloane says "So," she
finishes, "one time the actor onstage
with her created a totally ridiculous
situation where she could not possibly
leave-she was supposed to be so in-
credibly fat that she couldn't fit through
the door or something. But the thing is,
Gilda learned from that experience.
That's what Second City is all about."
A common gripe among performers
(in all areas) is that there is
nowhere for them to learn
or refine their craft anymore.
Years ago, vaudeville and
burlesque helped newcomers cultivate
that talent. Sloane feels that Second
City is today's vaudeville. "There was
no place for people to learn
anymore-well, we have that place
now," she says.
There are now three permanent
Second City troupes, one each in
Chicago, Los Angeles, and Toronto.
These resident companies have only six
players. Needless to say, "There are
always people waiting to get into the
resident companies," Sloane reveals.
The popularity of the original troupe
spurred a national group that carried
the banner of improvisation to such
places as Ann Arbor, Pittsburgh, and
St. Louis. This ensemble consists of the
players waiting to make it into a per-
manent company. 34"They must
audition for the traveling company,"
Sloane says. They also understudy the
regular groups.
The auditions are completely im-
provisational and open to anybody. As a
.matter of fact, the auditions are


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; . -
The Second City: Clowning around
somewhat like the performances them-
selves. The Second City players do not
script their material beforehand; they
take suggestions from the audience as
to what their skit should be about.
"They (the auditions) are difficult to
prepare for," Sloane says with a bit of
obvious understatement. But stardom
often awaits those who do make the
touring troupe. Just ask Bill Murray.
According to Sloane, the driving force
behind Second City is the alumni. She
says, "It's just a terrific place. I get
such a great pleasure when one of our
own makes it great. We're like a
family. You can't imagine what it was

like for m
way debul
Hour,' or
Pirates of
all reme
well... E
did his fir
wore his S
of the shov
me to se
Second C
with the



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Prague Symphony: Music from other lands



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14 Weekend/October 15, 1982

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