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Symphony to play 'Faun,' 'Firebird'

At its next concert, the American West Symphony, under the baton of music director Joel Rosenberg, will play two works that have become mainstays in the orchestral repertoire.

One of these is Debussy's "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun," which Rosenberg considers to be a groundbreaking work in impressionism and in the composer's musical development. "It's one of Debussy's first major works, and with it he made an international name for himself," Rosenberg said.

He added that the "Prelude" is a direct musical equivalent of the poem by Mallarme on which it is based. "Debussy uses the same number of lines that are in the poem."

Musically, the work is basically in theme and variation form, Rosenberg said. "The theme first appears in the flute, and throughout the piece different woodwind instruments constantly restate it." As to its historical significance, Rosenberg places the "Prelude" on the same level as Beethoven's "Eroica" Symphony and Wagner's "Tristan und Isolde." "It can be ranked with the 'Eroica' and 'Tristan' in the evolution of Western music."

The other main work on this week's American West program is Stravinsky's suite from "The Firebird," in the composer's 1919 version. "This is a very demanding work for the woodwind players," Rosenberg said. "The orchestration is absolutely brilliant."

With this week's concert, the Sandy-based orchestra will have performed all three of Stravinsky's early ballets. "Within the last four years, we've done 'Petrouchka,' a large part of 'The Rite of Spring' and now 'The Firebird.' "

The orchestra will also play the overture from Smetana's opera "The Bartered Bride." "Not too many people realize that Smetana wrote several operas. 'The Bartered Bride' is the second of eight he composed."

This overture can be favorably compared to the overture to Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro" for its lively humor," Rosenberg said. "The vitality, energy and brilliance you find in Smetana's overture is not unlike that in the 'Figaro' overture. This has some of the most inexhaustible energy of any of Smetana's works."

Rosenberg has decided to include the "Nimrod" movement from Elgar's "Enigma Variations" at these concerts in memory of the seven astronauts who tragically lost their lives aboard the space shuttle Columbia.

There will be three performances, and Rosenberg said that the first one, which takes place Friday, will be geared toward children. "It's important that we do youth concerts, and the Friday performance will be an educational concert."

He will talk about the pieces before playing them and explain how the instruments in an orchestra can be used to depict scenes and portray characters. "In 'The Firebird,' for example, I'm going to talk about the story and describe how the firebird is a symbol of goodness, and how it eventually defeats the evil Kashchey and saves the prince."

Concerts March 7, 8

What: American West Symphony

Where: Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 8600 South and 700 East, Sandy

When: 7 p.m., March 7; 8 p.m., March 8

How much: $6 general, $4 students, $15 family pass

Additional concert

Where: Assembly Hall on Temple Square

When: 7:30 p.m., March 14

How much: Free