Edward T. Cone, composer, pianist, author, and teacher, enjoyed a
distinguished career as a professor of music at Princeton University
and he produced several scholarly books, many of them classics in
their field. At the time of his receipt of an honorary doctorate of
humane letters from Princeton University, Cone was cited as the "ideal
embodiment of composer, performer, teacher and scholar… The knowing
beauty of his compositions, the graceful power of his piano playing
and the inviting elegance of his critical essays teach us to think
well of music’s place in human affairs. His genial voice remains the
melody so many of us hear when we ponder music."
Last year the Princeton Symphony Orchestra introduced the Edward T.
Cone Series to pay tribute to the memory of this remarkable and
generous man and his exceptional role in sustaining and guiding the
development of the Princeton Symphony Orchestra from its inception.
The second annual Edward T. Cone concert takes place on Sunday,
January 20. According to a press statement the program has been
selected "to honor Cone’s remarkable gifts as a composer and his great
passion for the work of Gustav Mahler. Under the baton of guest
conductor Mischa Santora, the orchestra will present the world
premiere performance of Cone’s An Overture for the War, music for our
time as well as the time during which it was composed. The Overture
has been paired with Cone’s Elegy to explore two contrasting and
profound sides of this composer, teacher, author, and humanitarian."
The orchestra will also perform Mahler’s evocative and stirring song
cycle, Des Knaben Wunderhorn, containing many of the same themes also
explored by Cone’s works.
One of two Cone compositions that can be associated with the beginning
of World War II, An Overture for the War was written in the winter of
1942, just before Cone entered the army, where he worked in the Office
of Strategic Services. A Princeton University graduate student working
toward his master of fine arts degree in music, Cone originally
composed this piece for a competition that called for "new music
composed in response to the country’s entrance into the war." Roy
Dickinson Welch, founding chair of the Princeton University Music
Department insisted that Cone change the name of the piece to Prelude
to Victory for the purpose of the competition. It was Cone’s first
completed piece for full orchestra.
Cone’s Elegy was written about 10 years later in 1953, after the
composer had completed nearly 30 pieces. Elegy was commissioned and
first performed in 1954 by the Princeton Symphony Orchestra
Association, a performing ensemble of that era which was led by
Nicholas Harsanyi, and whose board included such luminaries as Albert
Einstein. Nathanial Burt reviewed the 1954 performance, noting that
the piece was "developed musically and orchestrally with great
imagination." He went on to call Elegy, "a piece of great impact…
magnificent. . ."
Between 1892 and 1901 Gustav Mahler composed 15 songs for voice and
orchestra based on different texts from a collection of German folk
poetry, called Des Knaben Wunderhorn, or "The Youth’s Magic Horn."
Selected from more than three volumes containing over seven-hundred
works, Mahler’s songs were inspired by those poems with which he felt
a strong connection. Conceived for voice and orchestra, the collection
is now known as Mahler’s `Songs from "Des Knaben Wunderhorn." With
subjects ranging from love and heartbreak to childhood fantasy and
war, the Wunderhorn poems, sometimes bitter and tragic, sometimes
playful and light, inspired many composers, but they are perhaps most
central to Mahler’s musical legacy.
The Youth’s Magic Horn, Sunday, January 20, 4 p.m., Princeton Symphony
Orchestra, Richardson Auditorium, Princeton University. Music of
Mahler and Cone. Mischa Santora conducts. Susan Narucki, soprano, and
Alexander Tall, baritone, are soloists. Pre-concert lecture at 3 p.m.
$16 to $64. Subscriptions for the three remaining classical series
concerts and single tickets are also available.
www.princetonsymphony.org or 609-497-0020.