In celebration of its 25th anniversary, the Yale Philharmonia Orchestra of Yale will open its new season with a performance of three early ballets by Igor Stravinsky which are seldom presented on the same program.
The concert, which is free and open to the public, begins at 8 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 9, in Woolsey Hall, corner of Grove and College streets.
Featured in the concert will be Stavinsky's "The Firebird," "Petroushka" and "The Rite of Spring," which are among the composer's most popular works. The three ballets, written between 1910 and 1912, require a virtuoso orchestra -- a description befitting the Yale Philharmonia Orchestra, which is composed of students at the School of Music. The silver anniversary concert will be conducted by Lawrence Leighton Smith, the orchestra's music director.
Although the School of Music's orchestra wasn't named the Yale Philharmonia until 1973, the University's commitment to orchestral music extends back to 1894, when the New Haven Symphony Orchestra was founded and conducted by the school's first dean, Horatio Parker.
At the time, the University was a cosponsor of the orchestra, which gave music school students the opportunity to perform or hear their own compositions. The uniqueness of this arrangement attracted the attention of the national press.
Ties with the University were broken in the 1950s. By this time, however, the School of Music had created ensembles of its own, including the Collegium Musicum, which was developed into a performing ensemble by Paul Hindemith in 1945. The School of Music also sponsored the University Orchestra, which was open to all Yale community members, but this ensemble didn't initially gain a large following due to a dearth of instrumentalists at the School of Music, which did not yet offer majors in wind instruments.
Wind majors were offered beginning in 1946, and from that point, the orchestra developed rapidly. Howard Boatwright was appointed its music director in 1952. During the 1959-69 season, while under the direction of Keith Wilson, the ensemble was renamed the Yale Collegium Musicum Orchestra.
The orchestra became known as the Philharmonia Orchestra of Yale during the tenure of Werner Muller as music director 1973-87. The orchestra gained the attention of fans in New Haven and beyond in the early 1970s, when such distinguished guests as Leopold Stokowski, Danny Kaye, Georg Solti, Aaron Copland and Pierre Boulez led the orchestra in rehearsals and performances.
In the 1980s the orchestra made regular appearances in New York's Beethoven Society Concerts, Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center, and it participated twice in the Evian festival in France.
Other noted conductors who directed the orchestra include Eleazar de Carvalho, who became music director upon the departure of Mueller, and Gunther Herbig, who led the orchestra in the early 1990s. Lawrence Leighton Smith became music director in 1994.
The Yale Philharmonia is the only major orchestra in Connecticut that offers its concerts to the public free of charge. For further information about its 25th-anniversary concert or about its 1998-99 season, call 432-4158, or visit the School of Music's website at www.yale.edu/schmus.