Austin Symphony Orchestra: How Much Is That Symphony in the Window?

Two new symphonies will premiere in ASO's next season, but how are those costly commissions being paid for?

Composer Dan Welch
Composer Dan Welch

Since the Fourth of July is a holiday that practically belongs to the Austin Symphony Orchestra, it seems a fitting time to report on ASO's upcoming season – specifically on the two world-premiere works that orchestral fans can look forward to in it. The first, reported in these pages last fall ("Austin Symphony Orchestra: Commission Fever," Oct. 26, 2007), is a new symphony by Texas native Christopher Theofanidis, whose operatic work The Refuge was a sensation for Houston Grand Opera last year. The as-yet-untitled symphony, commissioned by ASO to commemorate its first season in the Long Center, will be the centerpiece of the symphony's second concert of its 98th season (a week after its gala opening concert with Yo-Yo Ma on Sept. 11). The thing about commissions is: They take money – typically, a lot of money. Fortunately for ASO, the National Endowment for the Arts recently announced that it's chipping in $15,000 to support the Theofanidis commission.

Later in the season, ASO will premiere a new work by local composer and Austin Arts Hall of Fame member Dan Welcher, courtesy of classical station KMFA 89.5FM, where Welcher may be heard Sundays on his award-winning program, Knowing the Score. Welcher's Fifth Symphony is also intended to celebrate the Long Center's opening, but it has a second purpose: to honor maestro Peter Bay's 10th year as the Austin Symphony's music director. The latter gives it special meaning for Welcher, since he and Bay have been close friends for more than 25 years. In a statement from the symphony, Welcher said, "I intend to make this symphony my biggest and best utterance for the orchestra and conductor for which I have the highest personal regard."

Again, commissions are costly, and the price tag for this one is $50,000, of which only about one-third has been raised to date. KMFA, in conjunction with the Austin Community Foundation, is soliciting contributions from classical music fans in Central Texas. Tax-deductible donations should be made payable to KMFA – Welcher Commission and sent to the Austin Comm-unity Foundation, PO Box 6037, Austin, TX 78702-6037. For more information, visit www.kmfa.org.

Side note: You can hear a new piece by Welcher, conducted by Bay, in just a week. The composer's Four Personal Ads will have its world premiere at the Blue Rhapsody concert that opens the 2008 Austin Chamber Music Festival. The work will be sung by soprano Mela Dailey, who is married to Peter Bay. The concert – which also includes a performance of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, naturally – will be Friday, July 11, 7:30pm, at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, 4801 La Crosse. For more information, call 232-0105 or visit www.austinchambermusic.org.

Oh, and about the Fourth of July: With the completion of the Long Center, ASO is moving the site of its free Independence Day concert from Zilker Park back to its original home on Auditorium Shores. The 32nd annual July Fourth concert begins at 8:30pm, with fireworks set for approximately 9:30pm. For information on road closures in the area and nearby parking, visit www.austinsymphony.org.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Austin Symphony Orchestra, Peter Bay, Christopher Theofanidis, Dan Welcher, Mela Dailey, Austin Chamber Music Festival

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