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Illinois Symphony Orchestra Makes An Impression With Latest Program

Ken Lam in action
Ken Lam
Illinois Symphony Orchestra Music Director Ken Lam.

The lure of the symphony and the timelessness of classical music comes from the power and images invoked in the listener.

The Illinois Symphony Orchestra’s program on Friday will fill the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts with the lush sounds of Max Bruch’s “Scottish Fantasy,” Ralf Vaughan-Williams “The Lark Ascending,” and Ottorino Respighi’s “Pines of Rome."

“One of the reasons this program is so approachable is that we can really see what the composer is writing about, and you can associate more than just music to it,” said Illinois Symphony Music Director Ken Lam.

Lam said that a piece such as “The Lark Ascending” is impressionistic. Much like an impressionist painter like Claude Monet, the composer attempts to evoke a feeling or atmosphere.

“There’s something incredibly nostalgic and almost melancholy about 'The Lark Ascending,' and I’m really hooked on it right now,” Lam said.

The color and atmosphere of an impressionist composition takes a unique form in “Pines of Rome.”

“There is actually the addition of a recording of birds,” Lam said. “That is probably the first time someone has tried to do that.”

The “Pines of Rome” composition has even inspired film composer John Williams, whose “Star Wars” theme may be paying homage to Respighi’s piece.

“If you listen to the last movement, The Apian Way, that’s really describing an army returning from battle,” Lam said. “You listen to it, and you kind of figure out where John Williams might have gotten some of his ideas from.”

The Illinois Symphony Orchestra will perform Friday at 7:30 p.m. in the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts, and then Saturday night in Springfield.

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WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.
Sean Newgent is a senior journalism major at Illinois State University. He's an intern for the GLT newsroom.