The Sounds of the Solar System

Article Published: Sep. 15, 2011 | Modified: Sep. 25, 2011
The Sounds of the Solar System

Cornelia Laemmli Orth, conductor for the Symphony of the Mountains, will lead the Appalachian Philharmonia at a special ‘Solar System’ concert Sept. 25.

Photo by Jeff Eason

Almost 93 years to the day it premiered in London’s Queen’s Hall, Gustav Holst’s “The Planets” will be performed Sept. 25 by the Appalachian Philharmonia from Appalachian State University’s Hayes School of Music. The concert, which also features Mozart’s “Symphony No. 41 in C Major” known as “Jupiter,” begins at 2 p.m. in Farthing Auditorium on the ASU campus. Admission is free.

The philharmonia will be directed by Cornelia Laemmli Orth, music director, conductor and chief operating officer for the Symphony of the Mountains based in Kingsport, Tenn.

Orth most recently performed in the High Country with the Symphony of the Mountains during July’s Symphony at Chetola in Blowing Rock.

The philharmonia is a faculty-student collaborative, which is one of the reasons Orth accepted the temporary post in the Hayes School of Music. “I’m very excited about this opportunity. Having an orchestra with faculty and students is as good as it gets,” she said.

Orth said she looked at the philharmonia’s past programs and listened to recordings of past performances before selecting the compositions for the Sept. 25 performance.

“Holst’s ‘Planets” is a big piece that requires a lot of musicians and it’s one you can have fun with,” she said.

The program featuring Holst’s seven-movement suite and Mozart’s symphony will give musicians the opportunity to further hone their skills, Orth said.

“I believe musicians can learn a lot when performing in the classical style of music. The musicianship required is something they will be able to use in whatever type of repertoire they perform,” she said.

Orth says Holst presents an emotional description of the planets in his composition, including nicknames for each movement. For instance, the fourth movement is titled “Jupiter: The Bringer of Jollity,” while the last movement is titled “Neptune: The Mystic.”

“It’s not a scientific description, but an emotional description,” Orth said of the suite. “What are the emotions associated with the influence of the planets? It’s a sound painting of the planets.”

Unlike symphonies that begin quietly and build to a crescendo, “The Planets” begins with a big, spectacular movement,” Orth said. It ends with a slow, majestic movement.

“Symphony No. 41” is one of a trio of symphonies written by Mozart in the summer of 1788. Its nickname “Jupiter” may have been added by a music publisher in the early 1820s to depict the symphony’s grand, ceremonious scale.

Orth is in her fifth season as conductor of the Symphony of the Mountains. Born and raised in Switzerland, she received master’s degrees in piano, music education and choral conducting from universities and conservatories in Zurich and Winterthur. She also holds a master’s degree in orchestra conducting from Northwestern University.

She also has conducted the North Shore Chamber Orchestra, the Northwestern University Symphony and Chamber Orchestra, appeared as guest conductor with the Northwestern Philharmonia and served as assistant conductor of Northwestern University’s Opera Company.

She served as associate conductor and later principal guest conductor of the Knoxville Symphony (2002-08) and music director/conductor of the Oak Ridge Symphony (2005-10).

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