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"The President's Own"

United States Marine Band

Colonel Jason K. Fettig, Director
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Orchestra Performs Legendary Works by Haydn and Mozart

By Staff Sgt. Brian Rust | United States Marine Band | February 2, 2016


The Marine Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Assistant Director Maj. Michelle A. Rakers, will perform two legendary works by composers Franz Josef Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart at 2 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 7, at Northern Virginia Community College’s Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center in Alexandria. The concert is free and no tickets are required. Free parking is available in the adjacent garage.

The concert, aptly titled “What’s In a Nickname?,” will highlight Haydn’s Symphony No. 96 and Mozart’s Symphony No. 41. Composed within a few years of one another, Haydn’s The Miracle and Mozart’s Jupiter captured the ears, hearts, and minds of their audiences and took on lives of their own. These composers and their symphonies are just as relevant today as they were in the 1780s.

Haydn did not give his symphony the nickname The Miracle, but rather it earned it in a rather strange and random way. Musicologist Edward Downes recounted the story of how the nickname came to be:

When Haydn came to take his place at the keyboard during one of his London concerts, the audience, curious to observe the great man at close quarters, crowded forward towards the orchestra, leaving empty a large number of seats in the middle of the auditorium. While the seats were still empty, a huge chandelier plunged down and smashed, terrifying the whole audience. When those whose lives had perhaps been saved by the accident of their curiosity realized what had happened, the cry went up “Miracle! Miracle!” The odd thing about this incident is that it did not happen at the performance of Symphony No. 96, but in 1794, at the première of Haydn’s Symphony No. 102, but the nickname “Miracle” has stuck to No. 96.

Mozart’s symphony earned its nickname in a much different way, albeit still somewhat tied to Haydn and London. In what one might consider a publicity scheme, Johann Peter Salomon, the man responsible for Haydn’s two visits to London, dubbed Mozart’s work with the title of Jupiter, forever linking the grand symphony with one of the most powerful gods of ancient Rome. The nickname stuck and Mozart’s Symphony No. 41 is considered by many to be the composer’s greatest symphonic achievement and an icon of the Classical symphonic genre.

The concert will also include Danish composer Carl Nielsen’s Flute Concerto, featuring soloist Gunnery Sgt. Elisabeth Plunk. Nielsen composed the concerto for the Copenhagen Wind Quintet and dedicated the piece as a musical portrait of the mercurial personality of Holger Gilbert-Jespersen, the quintet’s flutist.

“This piece was the first flute concerto I heard live with an orchestra,” Plunk said. “My mother took me to hear Gary Shocker perform it with the Quad City Symphony in Davenport, Iowa, when I was 13 and the performance was a huge inspiration to me. I feel very honored to perform it.”

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