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Alma Symphony Orchestra Opens 59th Season

Jonathan Spatola-Knoll joins the ASO as music director and conductor.

Jonathan Spatola-KnollJonathan Spatola-KnollThe Alma Symphony Orchestra opens its 59th season with a tribute to Scandinavian composers, featuring classical and folk-inspired selections by Elfrida Andrée (Sweden), Edvard Grieg (Norway) and Jean Sibelius (Finland).

The performance also marks the debut of Jonathan Spatola-Knoll, who joins the Alma Symphony Orchestra as music director and conductor.

The concert begins at 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 21 in the Remick Heritage Center, Presbyterian Hall, at Alma College. Tickets are $15 for adults, $5 for seniors 62 and up, and free for Alma College staff, students and youth 18 and under. Seating is reserved. Call (989) 463-7304 for ticket information.

A recent awardee of the Vienna Philharmonic’s Ansbacher Fellowship for Young Conductors, Spatola-Knoll comes to Alma after serving as director of orchestras at Whitman College and in residence at the Salzburg Festival. He has a master’s degree in conducting and a Ph.D. from the University of California at Davis.

“It is an honor to join the musicians of the Alma Symphony Orchestra, and I look forward to sharing our music with the Alma community,” says Spatola-Knoll. Also a musicologist, violist and collaborative pianist, Spatola-Knoll has conducted such ensembles as the UC Davis Symphony and Chorus, the Pierre Montreux Festival Orchestra and the Whitman College Symphony Orchestra.

Alma Symphony OrchestraAlma Symphony OrchestraThe concert opens with two works by the 19th century Swedish composer Andrée, including the North American premiere of Overture in G Minor.

“This is a piece Andrée wrote when she was young,” says Spatola-Knoll. “It has several story-laden elements, with contrasting sections of a storm-and-stress and lyrical and calm.”

Andrée’s Andante Quasi Recitative for Strings was composed later in life and features a different style that highlights the various sounds of the orchestra. It begins with a short violin solo that introduces a melancholy emotion, says Spatola-Knoll.

The program also features music by Grieg from the Norwegian play Peer Gynt. Some sections of the music are well known; the audience members may recognize certain parts from cartoons or movies, says Spatola-Knoll.

“The selections offer a lot of variety, with thrills and scares, mournful and melancholy sections, a march and depictions of a storm,” he says.

The program closes with Finlandia, op. 26, the rousing classic by Sibelius composed at the end of the 19th century to evoke the national struggle of the Finnish people.

The approximately 80-member Alma Symphony Orchestra includes a mix of professional musicians from the mid-Michigan area and Alma College student-performers.

Story published on September 29, 2018