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To celebrate Rice University’s centennial year, the Shepherd School of Music last night presented the world premiere of American composer William Bolcom’s “Ninth Symphony: A Short Symphony in One Movement,” commissioned for the Shepherd School Symphony Orchestra. Additional performances will take place Oct. 12 and 14.
The performances are part of Rice’s Centennial Celebration, Oct. 10-14.
Larry Rachleff, the Walter Kris Hubert Professor of Orchestral Conducting, directed the world premiere and will direct the subsequent performances. He called the “Ninth Symphony” “strong and accessible, with a dramatic message.”
“It’s always an honor for us to premiere new works for the orchestra, and particularly this time given the significance of both the composer and the occasion,” Rachleff said. “With William Bolcom’s skills and talent comes across a very moving statement that hangs together in evident and clear ways for the listener. It’s a ‘friendly’ listen that has great meaning in it.”
Unlike traditional symphonies, which are typically two or three movements and 45 minutes long, the “Ninth Symphony” is one movement and lasts approximately 15 minutes. Despite the piece’s short length, Rachleff noted, the virtuosity required in the piece is substantial.
“It is a great statement about our students at the Shepherd School that they are able to meet this uncommon demand,” he said.
Robert Yekovich, dean of the Shepherd School, called Bolcom “a senior statesmen in music today and one of America’s pre-eminent composers.”
“He’s had a long and successful career with a number of extraordinary works to his credit,” Yekovich said. “Before the Shepherd School approached him about a commission, (Bolcom) had been thinking about writing a single movement work for large orchestra, so this provided an opportunity to engage the service of a major American composer in the later phase of his career, which historically has proven to be an especially productive time for many composers.”
Yekovich added that for Rice to commission a new work of art as part of its Centennial Celebration makes a strong statement about both the university’s and the Shepherd School’s values.