The Steamboat Symphony Orchestra practices Thursday at the high school. The orchestra’s season finale is at 5 p.m. Sunday at the Strings Music Pavilion.

Photo by Matt Stensland

The Steamboat Symphony Orchestra practices Thursday at the high school. The orchestra’s season finale is at 5 p.m. Sunday at the Strings Music Pavilion.

Steamboat Symphony Orchestra season finale Sunday

‘New World Symphony,’ cello concerto featured on program

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Steamboat Springs Orchestra

Steamboat Springs Orchestra Conductor Ernest Richardson celebrates the beginning of Spring and talks about this Sunday's orchestra Spring Concert on the Steamboat Today show.

Steamboat Springs Orchestra Conductor Ernest Richardson celebrates the beginning of Spring and talks about this Sunday's orchestra Spring Concert on the Steamboat Today show.

If you go

What: Steamboat Symphony Orchestra season finale concert, featuring Dvorak’s Concerto for Cello and Orchestra in B minor and Dvorak’s “New World Symphony”

When: 5 p.m. Sunday

Where: Strings Music Pavilion

Cost: $20 in advance, $25 at the door; advance tickets available at All That Jazz, the Steamboat Symphony Orchestra office at the Depot Art Center or the Strings Music Festival box office; tickets also are available online at www.steamboatorchestra.org

Call: 870-3223

Online

To learn more about the orchestra or buy tickets for the concert, go to www.steamboatorchestra.org.

— The Steamboat Symphony Orchestra celebrates a new name with a symphony for a new world Sunday when it closes its 2009-10 season with a program of Romantic-era music by Czech composer Antonin Dvorak.

The concert features principal cellist John Sant’Ambrogio on Dvorak’s Concerto for Cello and Orchestra in B minor, and the full ensemble on Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 in E minor, or the “New World Symphony.”

Music starts at 5 p.m. Sunday at Strings Music Pavilion. Tickets are $20 in advance at All That Jazz, the Steamboat Symphony Orchestra office or Web site, or the Strings Music Festival box office; admission is $25 at the door. The orchestra will play the same program at 7 p.m. Saturday at Moffat County High School in Craig.

“This is in many ways the most difficult concert we’ve put together, and it reflects the arc of building the orchestra that I’m working on, that we’re working on,” Music Director Ernest Richardson said.

The cello concerto requires a large ensemble to remain nimble, and the New World Symphony is technically and rhythmically challenging, he said.

“We’re in the process of taking the major repertoire of the orchestral world and using it not only to build awareness of that repertoire in the community, but also to build the orchestra itself,” Richardson said.

An advocate of his own country’s folk music, Dvorak became obsessed with the same style of song during his early 1890s stay in the United States, Richardson said. A melody from the symphony’s second movement is similar to the spiritual “Goin’ Home,” and the rest of the work is equally evocative, he said.

“The outer two movements are really dramatic, and every time I hear them I can’t help but see scenes of the Rocky Mountains and the Grand Canyon. … To me, it’s very driven, and it very much sounds like nature,” Richardson said.

Dvorak’s cello concerto also presents a challenge for the orchestra and a visceral listening experience for the audience, Richardson said.

“It has all of the inventive melodies and melodic gestures that Dvorak is famous for, and he finds a way of highlighting what the instrument can do in just remarkable ways. It’s a spectacular piece and a real challenge for John (Sant’Ambrogio) and the orchestra,” he said.

Looking ahead

The Steamboat Springs Orchestra officially changed its name to Steam­boat Symphony Or­­chestra earlier this week to help distinguish the professional ensemble of mostly local musicians from Strings Music Fes­­tival and its programming, said SSO Director of Development Lou Mathews.

After rounding out its 2008-09 season on difficult financial footing that motivated orchestra musicians to play last year’s season finale concert without pay, the organization is in a better financial situation but still is seeking donations, Mathews said.

“We are still looking for donations. … We had a very successful year, and one thing we’re looking at right now is to try to attract sponsors earlier,” Mathews said. Orchestra board and staff members hope to attract sponsors in advance for every concert, she said.

Steamboat Symphony Or­­ches­­tra tentatively plans to follow a similar concert schedule in 2010-11 as it did in 2009-10, with an opening concert in September, a holiday concert, a February concert and a season finale in March or April, Mathews said. For more information about the orchestra, go to www.steamboatorchestra.org.

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