UT Symphony Orchestra celebrates World War anniversaries

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Moving images and music will work together in an event Wednesday night to mark two anniversaries — the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I and the 75th anniversary of the start of World War II.    

The event, titled “The World at War,” will feature UT’s Symphony Orchestra along with a mixed media video presentation to accompany the music being performed.    

Gerhardt Zimmermann, director of orchestral activities at UT, said this event was a collaborative effort between the symphony and the Texas Performing Arts Center. This is not the first time the two entities have worked together.    

“Last year, we gave the world premiere of a concerto for string quartet and orchestra featuring the Baroque Quartet,” Zimmermann said. “And this year we’re doing this collaboration because it’s the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I and the 75th anniversary of the beginning of World War II.”    

The concert features three pieces: Dmitri Shostakovich’s “Symphony No. 7,” John Russo’s “Salute,” and Donald Grantham’s “The War Prayer.” While the first piece has been performed many times before, the latter two are newer pieces. Grantham’s “The War Prayer” will have its world premiere at the concert.    

“The John Russo was written exclusively for this,” Zimmermann said. “And I’ve been talking with [Donald] Grantham, the composer of the ‘[The] War Prayer’ for over three years [about] doing the premiere of his orchestrated version for orchestra and baritone voice.”    

Zimmermann said the event itself has been in the works for over a year, and the video portion accompanying the piece will be made up of a mix of media that includes both still images and film clips.    

“All the images in the film are images of the building up of a Nazi war machine, the Russian army,” Zimmermann said. “There are both movie segments, and also photographic stills, and they’re all from that time frame.”    

By blending strong musical pieces together, such as Shostakovich’s “Symphony No. 7,” with images from the time period, Zimmermann hopes the performance will honor its historical context.    

“I think it will be one of the most powerful presentations that has ever been performed here,” Zimmermann said. “I’m hoping there will be a large number of retired military in the audience because we’re going to dedicate the John Russo piece to them.”    

Before the symphony, Zimmermann plans on speaking to the audience to provide context for the music and images.    

“You don’t have to read a program note to know what’s going on in that symphony, and I’ll be speaking to the audience about that,” Zimmermann said.    

Overall, Zimmermann believes Wednesday night’s performance will be both emotional and powerful.     

“I think this is going to be quite an event for the PAC and also The University of Texas Symphony Orchestra and for the Music Department and I think for the University,” Zimmermann said. “It will be a powerful event, I’ll say that.”