Eddins to conduct CSO in evening of organ, Czech music


William Eddins

Lauren Hutchison | Staff Writer

When William Eddins travels south on Route 394 into Mayville, N.Y., and catches a glimpse of Chautauqua Lake, he knows he is home.

“Chautauqua has been a dominant strand of DNA in my life now for 32 years,” he said. “This is something that I take with me every day when I make music. It was so fundamental to my development as a musician and as a human being.”

Eddins, a former School of Music student, will conduct the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra at 8:15 p.m. Saturday in the Amphitheater. They are joined by Jared Jacobsen, organist and coordinator of sacred music and worship, who is Eddins’ former teacher, in a unique program featuring the obscure, sixth organ symphony by Charles-Marie Widor and Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No. 7.

In another interview a thousand miles away, Jacobsen echoed Chautauquan sentiments similar to Eddins’.

“Chautauqua is responsible for creating me as a musician, as a person,” he said. “My aesthetics, my theology, my technique, my way of looking at the keyboard, was all shaped by this place, since I was five years old. This is home for me.”

Jacobsen said he has always known Eddins was destined for big things.

“He’s just beyond brilliant,” he said. “He’s a fabulous pianist, and he’s developed into a fabulous conductor.”

Eddins, a self-professed “organ nerd,” said he is looking forward to a fun, entertaining concert with Jacobsen and the CSO.

“To do this piece with Jared and with that great outdoor organ at Chautauqua and the orchestra … I’m getting a big smile on my face just thinking about it,” he said.

Jacobsen has played Widor’s Symphony No. 6 for Organ and Orchestra in G Minor, Op. 42 (bis) as a solo before but never has played it with an orchestra. Most organists dread undertaking a new piece with an orchestra, but Jacobsen said he is not remotely worried.

“What I want to do is to showcase what that instrument can do without taking anything away from the orchestra,” he said. “That will be the fun of this piece.”

Widor is known for his compositions for organ. Jacobsen said the rare sixth symphony is a wonderful, accessible showpiece for the organ and the orchestra. It starts with a fanfare for the brass before the organ and the orchestra launch into the symphony simultaneously. The slow, third movement is a romance between the flute stops of the organ and the string section of the orchestra. The piece closes with a huge march with glittering accompaniment.

To contrast this “big beast” from 19th-century French literature, Eddins selected the overture from Bedřich Smetana’s comic opera, The Bartered Bride.

Eddins said the opera is very silly, and there is a tremendous sense of sparkling humor and light-heartedness in the overture.

“(Smetana) will always come around a curve just a little bit differently than you would expect,” Eddins said.

In the second half of the program, the CSO will perform Dvořák’s Symphony No. 7 in D Minor, Op. 70, which Eddins called miraculous and the best piece Dvořák ever wrote.

He characterized the piece as Brahms in a Dvořák sense. The two composers were friends, and in the midst of a compositional crisis, Brahms urged Dvořák to write music that was distinctly Czech. With this advice and his love of Brahms’ third symphony, Dvořák wrote his seventh symphony, which mirrors the structure and form of Brahms’ third with plenty of Czech style, Eddins said.

That style is most evident in the third movement, with a two-against-three waltz. Eddins said the symphony has a dark, romantic nature with elements of peasant harmonies throughout.

“The seventh symphony is definitely roots music,” he said. “It has more in common with Dvořák’s Slavonic dances than with his other large, symphonic works.”

Eddins is the music director of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. In 2012, the orchestra will play at Carnegie Hall. Though he works frequently as a conductor and tours the world guest conducting, Eddins considers himself a pianist, first and foremost, and is working on recordings of chamber music in his private studio.

He last conducted the CSO in 2003. He said the experience of coming as a student, a visitor and then a conductor gives an odd sensation of déjà vu. He said he always enjoys working with the members of the CSO, many of whom he knows quite well.

“That always brings another wonderful element to the experience, because you like seeing these people; you know you have history with them,” he said. “It makes making music just that much easier.”

Jacobsen said Saturday’s concert is a happy collaboration all around.

“I’m really looking forward to collaborating with (Eddins) on this,” he said. “He’s such a good musician — that’s all you really need. I can trust myself to, hopefully, be as good a musician. The two of us will have a good time.”