The concert, conducted by Steven Amundson, was presented as part of the St. Olaf music departments 100th anniversary celebration.
After opening with a movement from Edvard Griegs Norwegian Dances, the orchestra was joined by associate music Professor Andrea Een for the world premiere of Three Pieces for Hardanger Fiddle and Orchestra. Dan Trueman of Princeton University composed the piece for Een and the St. Olaf Orchestra.
This is a really challenging piece because of the rhythmic difficulty between the parts, Een said described by Amundson as one of the worlds foremost experts on the Hardanger fiddle.
The demanding nature of the composition reflects Truemans efforts to write music that evokes the folk history of the instrument.
Traditional music for Hardanger fiddle is tuneful, yet hard to whistle; rhythmic, yet hard to dance to; complex, yet seemingly transparent, Trueman said.
The three-movement work is an ambitious entry into a nearly empty genre, since music for Hardanger fiddle is not traditionally written down. Rather, it is passed from generation to generation by oral tradition.
With its rising two-note figure, the compositions haunting second movement, titled Fire Song, seemed most true to the evenings recurrent theme of music built from simple motifs.
Following the Hardanger piece, Native American flutist Keith Bear and composer Linda Tutas Haugen 76, took to the stage for a performance of Haugens The Fable of Old Turtle, which premiered in 2001. This music is a message of peace during these tumultuous times, Amundson said prior to conducting the 17-minute work.
Based on the childrens book Old Turtle by Douglas Wood, the composition portrays a simple but powerful fable through musical motifs and narration, following the tradition of Sergei Prokofievs Peter and the Wolf.
The story of Old Turtle involves animals, humans and various elements of nature uniting with one another and with their creator. The music really brings an extra layer of meaning to the text, violist Phil Knutson 05 said.
The featured soloist for Old Turtle was Grammy Award nominee Bear, whose improvised flute solos and renditions of traditional Native American melodies provided the work with an emotional centerpiece.
Benjamin Krug 04 performed several of the compositions crucial cello solos and composer Haugen provided the narration.
The sole work on the programs second half was Ludwig van Beethovens epic Symphony No. 5. Most famous for its opening four-note motif, the work was composed by Beethoven in 1804 shortly after he began to come to terms with his hearing loss. The music reflects the composers inner struggle between suicidal thoughts and a desire to continue his life for arts sake. Following the powerful, famous first movement, the compositions other three movements complete Beethovens journey from despair to perseverance.
A recording of the concert will be presented at 3 p.m. on April 5 on WCAL 89.3 FM.
Other upcoming performances by the Orchestra include a performance with Chapel Choir on April 13 and the senior soloist concert on May 11.