Wu Man and her Chinese lute to star in concert

Musical perspectives on and about America constitute the theme of the upcoming The La Jolla Symphony & Chorus concert, 8 p.m. Feb. 6 and 1 p.m. Feb. 7 in UCSD’s Mandeville Auditorium.

Director Steven Schick will conduct the symphony and chorus in Charles Ives’ “Three Places in New England,” Lou Harrison’s “Concerto for Pipa & String Orchestra,” and Antonin Dvorák’s “Symphony No. 9 in E minor.”

Internationally renowned soloist Wu Man of Carlsbad, will guest star on the pipa, a Chinese lute.

“One of the salient points about this concert is the idea of a ‘shrinking world,’ ” said Schick. “We start the program with a piece by Charles Ives, the grandfather of American composition. Lou Harrison worked with Ives, but his path led toward the musical structures of Asia. In one of the last pieces before his death, he sought out Wu Man and created Chinese music — not as it would have or could have been heard in China, but really the music of Chinese-Americans.

“We’ll conclude with the piece Dvorák wrote about his time in America.”

Behind the music

Charles Ives (1874–1954) is regarded as one of the first American composers of international significance. Though his music was largely ignored during his life, over time Ives came to be regarded as an “American Original.” He offers a trio of snapshots of symbolic places in “Three Places in New England.” It was composed across a long span of time (sketches date back to 1903, while the latest revisions were made in 1929); however, the bulk was written between 1911 and 1914. Each movement is intended to make the listener feel the very place in New England, with hints of American folk tunes to enhance the effect.

California composer Lou Harrison (1917–2003) looked to China for inspiration in his “Concerto for Pipa & String Orchestra,” which blends West Coast and Far East. Harrison’s last large-scale work, the concerto places a single Asian instrument against the Western symphony orchestra, and is a surprising showpiece for the ancient Chinese lute. The concerto was written for Wu Man, the first student to receive a master’s degree in pipa from the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing. Since that time, Man has gone on to be the most prominent performer on the instrument, performing compositions by Tan Dun, Terry Riley, and Philip Glass.

Popularly known as the “New World Symphony,” Dvorák wrote his ninth symphony in 1893 during his visit to the U.S. from 1892 to 1895, where he became interested in African-American spirituals and Native American music. However, it’s considered that, like his other pieces, the work has more in common with folk music of his native Bohemia than with that of the states. Leonard Bernstein considered the work to be truly multinational in its foundation.

The LJSC is a 110-person orchestra and 130-voice chorus that performs groundbreaking orchestral and choral music along with traditional favorites from the classical repertoire.

American Accents’ Concert

  • Who: La Jolla Symphony & Chorus
  • When: 8 p.m. Feb. 6; 1 p.m. Feb. 7
  • Where: Mandeville Auditorium, UCSD campus
  • Tickets: $15-$29 at (858) 534-4637 or

— Diane Salisbury, LJSY