Livermore-Amador Symphony opens its 56th regular season with "Joy, Pathos, and Passion" at Livermore's Bankhead Theater at 8:15 p.m. on Dec. 1. Conducted by music director Lara Webber, the concert will feature compositions by Leonard Bernstein, Gabriel Fauré and Johannes Brahms.
The program will open with the lively overture to "Candide," for which Bernstein wrote the music as well as some of the lyrics. The overture performance is a bright and energetic tribute to this prodigious composer, pianist and long-term music director of the New York Philharmonic, a century after his birth.
"When I think of the music of Leonard Bernstein, I think of love," Webber said. "His music is pure heart-on-your-sleeve expression; it's often an unabashed pursuit of joy. This perfect five-minute overture packs a punch and fully encapsulates the frivolity and chaos of the story of Voltaire's 'Candide.'"
Next the orchestra will play Fauré's sublime "Pelléas and Mélisande." Fauré was one of the leading French composers of his generation. In the late 1890s he wrote this music for the "Symbolist" play about a pair of doomed lovers.
"His harmonic language shifts between open, simple progressions to more complex chromaticism, a perfect metaphor for the contradictions in this tragic story," Webber noted. "It is gorgeous music full of love's longing, and profound grief."
The concert will conclude with the sunny second symphony of Brahms, another composition that dates to the late 1800s.
"This is music about the release of tension into freedom and love," Webber said. "Musical historians like to call this Brahms' 'Pastoral' symphony, and it is the most joyful and sunny of his four great symphonies. I think the reason it feels so joyful is because of the great soulful darkness that lies within it.
"These great contrasts are especially present in the first and second movement, and in the last movement, Brahms deliberately restrains the energy accumulated throughout the entire symphony until it can be contained no more and all the bright, beautiful light bursts out in full glory," she continued.
"It's one of the great finales of all time."
That same day, at 3 p.m., immediately preceding the Livermore Holiday Parade, Livermore-Amador Symphony will present its free annual Family Concert at the Bankhead Theater. The afternoon performance will be geared toward families with children, featuring holiday favorites as well as music of Bernstein. The Valley Dance Theatre will join the orchestra, and following the program children may participate in the Instrument Petting Zoo a popular feature of previous Family Concerts. Although the afternoon concert is free, tickets are required.
At the evening concert, Webber will provide brief commentary during the evening in lieu of a prelude talk. The Symphony Guild will host a post-concert reception.
Find ticket information for both concerts at www.bankheadtheater.org; at the Bankhead ticket office, 2400 First St., Livermore; or by calling 373-6800.