Sans takes baton for Symphony’s ‘Laughter’

Oriol Sans previews the San Juan Symphony’s “Laughter” program Wednesday night at the Durango Arts Center. Sans will be the guest conductor. Enlarge photo

STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald

Oriol Sans previews the San Juan Symphony’s “Laughter” program Wednesday night at the Durango Arts Center. Sans will be the guest conductor.

It’s hard to imagine the San Juan Symphony without Arthur Post leading the way from the conductor’s podium, but the musicians will have to get by without their maestro this weekend.

For Sunday’s “Laughter” program at the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College, Post will step aside as Barcelona native Oriol Sans serves as guest conductor. Post is traversing Canada as music director for Thunder Bay, Ontario Orchestra.

“Every couple of years Arthur’s entitled to pick a guest when he has schedule conflicts,” said San Juan Symphony executive director Kathy Myrick.

“His wife and child live in Barcelona where he also works at the Opera House and that’s where he met Oriol. Oriol’s teaching at the University of Michigan, so we brought him here while he’s in the country.”

Sans didn’t miss a beat Wednesday night at the Durango Arts Center filling in for Post’s regular “Musically Speaking” preview of Sunday’s concert. As its name suggests, “Laughter” is a program of humorously themed selections, and Sans is enthusiastic about Post’s chosen pieces.

First up is Jacques Ibert’s “Divertissement,” which is comprised of music written for Eugene Labiche’s play “The Italian Straw Hat.” The Frenchman wrote a wide range of music, including piano accompaniment for silent films, which gives a hint that he didn’t take things too seriously. But he was a talented and creative composer who peppered “Divertissement” with tricks such as piccolo-sounding violins and snippets of other works, notably Strauss’ “Blue Danube” and Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March.”

“Let’s put it this way – he knew what he was doing,” Sans said of Ibert’s style.

The next selection on “Laughter” is as un-Tchaikovsky sounding piece by Tchaikovsky, “Variations on a Rococo Theme for Cello and Orchestra,” which will feature guest soloist Katherine Audas on cello. Sans said Tchaikovsky’s affinity for Wolfgang Mozart, which approached fawning fan level admiration, explains why the Variations sound more like Mozart than most of the bold Russian’s work.

“It’s as close as he ever came to a cello concerto,” Sans said.

After intermission, it’ll be the real deal, as the symphony will launch into Mozart’s Overture to “The Impresario.” The full piece was a German opera-like Singspiel, but with no vocalists on stage Sunday, the overture will have to do.

“The music isn’t simple – the music is great,” Sans said of the short (five-minute) work.

“Laughter” will conclude with Haydn’s famous practical joke, the Symphony No. 45 in F-sharp minor, commonly known as his “Farewell” symphony. He wrote it in 1772 as a protest of sorts in support of his musicians’ displeasure with Haydn’s patron, Hungarian Prince Nicolaus Esterhazy. While it may seem absurd that a 240-year-old piece of music can be “spoiled,” we’ll leave it to Sans and the Symphony to see how they handle the surprise ending. Suffice to say, it should be a fittingly lighthearted finale to a fun afternoon of music.