Berkeley Symphony performs ‘Fall Colors’ this Sunday at PCA
By Lou Fancher
Among the many splendors of the 2022-23 performing arts season in the East Bay is the return of the Berkeley Symphony. On Oct. 2, their Chamber Series presents the 51st season chamber opening concert at the Piedmont Center for the Arts with a program titled “Fall Colors.”
“With Berkeley Symphony’s Chamber Series, we wanted to create a connection to the Symphonic Series, which is led by Music Director Joseph Young,” says Artistic Director René Mandel in an email interview. “As a result, three of the five Chamber concerts showcase the composers seen in the Symphonic performances. The first is Fall Colors, which provides a preview of the season opening concert Symphonic I: Identities, as it features three works by the same three composers that audiences will hear at Zellerbach Hall [on October 16].”
The program at PCA includes Brian Raphael Nabors’ 7 Dances for Flute, Clarinet, Cello, Florence Price’s Five Folksongs in Counterpoint for String Quartet, and String Quartet No. 1 by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.
“Every Chamber concert is programmed with a theme in mind, including our three Symphonic concerts, a holiday-themed concert, and the February Winter of Love performance,” says Mandel. “As I do for every program, when I selected the works for Fall Colors, I wanted to ensure each piece would move the audience in a particular way. The concert starts with Berkeley Symphony’s New Music USA composer in residence Brian Raphael Nabors as part of the Amplifying Voices program. While (symphonic program) Identities will present Nabors’ world premiere Upon Daybreak, the Chamber concert on October 2 will feature his 7 Dances for Flute, Clarinet, Cello. Not only is the instrumentation unique, but it is also a chamber work that encapsulates Nabors’ artistic strength.”
The second work on the program, by Florence Price, is a work based on African American folk songs: “Calvary,” “My Darling Clementine,” “Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes,” “Shortnin’ Bread,” and “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” Price was the first black woman to have her works played by major U.S. orchestras. The piece’s rich palette draws upon well-known folksongs and is a signature representation of Price’s fine craft.
The second half of the program features Tchaikovsky’s timeless string quartet. “Just like the rich colors of fall, on their own, each of these pieces is beautiful, and when brought together they are stunning,” Mandel says.
Addressing the chamber series overall and performing live at the PCA, Mandel says the Berkeley Symphony musicians love the intimate setting. “It has an atmosphere bathed in light with excellent acoustics. Also, the artwork on display provides a pleasing accompaniment to the live performance, creating an unforgettable experience for everyone. Berkeley Symphony’s Chamber performances call to mind paintings like A Schubert Evening in a Vienna Salon, where the great Schubert is playing in the center of a parlor, with his friends and admirers warmly surrounding him. Similarly, the PCA is a setting that is familiar and comfortable for audiences and performers alike.”