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Mariposa Symphony Orchestra - Photo courtesy Mariposa County Arts Council

Mariposa Symphony Orchestra Concert Launches 16th Season

MARIPOSA — The sixteenth season of the Mariposa Symphony Orchestra begins on Saturday, Oct. 21, at 7 p.m. with a concert consisting appropriately of sixteen pieces: the complete Slavonic Dances of Antonín Dvořák.

Mariposa audiences will have the very rare opportunity to hear them played in their entirety, live in concert. Comprised of two sets of eight dances each, many have become staples of popular culture and were Dvořák’s first international success.

All sixteen are, according to the MSO’s Founder and Conductor Les Marsden, “perfect gems of rhythm, melody and emotion, each in its own distinctive way. Meticulously crafted by a master and amazingly enjoyable listening.”

Dvořák​ statue at Prague’s Rudolfinum Concert House – photo by MSO cellist Michael McLane

The young Czech was discovered by the world-renowned composer Johannes Brahms, who was captivated by the younger man’s compositions. He encouraged his own publisher Fritz Simrock to print the young Dvořák’s music. Simrock, hoping to cash in on the huge success which had accompanied Brahms’ own 21 Hungarian Dances, requested something similar from his new client and Dvořák quickly complied in 1878 with the first set of eight dances, opus 46.

Originally composed for piano duet, Dvořák was encouraged to orchestrate them by Simrock. When published, they became an immediate and huge success, inaugurating Dvořák’s illustrious career. Simrock later asked for more, but Dvořák famously replied that to do the same thing twice was “devilishly difficult” and “as long as I am not in the mood for it, I can do nothing.”

Fortunately, eight years later he was in the mood and composed the second set of eight dances, opus 72. According to Marsden, “the second set is just as magnificent as the first.”

While the dances have the regional/ethnic name of “Slavonic,” the first set’s origins are Bohemian and Moravian.

The more sophisticated composer of 1886 deliberately cast his influences further into Europe, producing music which captures the rhythms, styles and dance forms of Serbia, Poland and Croatia, among others.

“They range from the quiet, melancholic and perhaps even sad all the way to extraordinarily extroverted carnival outbursts,” says Marsden. “Sometimes such extremes are found even within a single dance. I think our audience members may find it difficult to refrain from jumping to their feet to join in!”

Dvořák may have had the last word on his Slavonic Dances himself, telling Simrock the second set would bring down the house and that “the dances will be orchestrated brilliantly, everything will bang and they will sound like the devil!”

General admission tickets for the MSO’s Season Opening Concert on Oct. 21, are $10 for adults and $6 for students, with special discounted rates for Mariposa County Arts Council members.

Full concert information will be available at the Arts Council’s MSO Page and a link for secure online ticket purchase will be found on that page.

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