Jon Robertson conducts final concert as Music Director of Redlands Symphony Orchestra – Redlands Daily Facts

REDLANDS >> Jon Robertson did not say goodbye at the Redlands Symphony Orchestra concert on Saturday night.

Instead, he thanked the musicians, audience and everyone involved with the Redlands Symphony over the 33 years he has been with the orchestra.

Saturday’s concert at the University of Redlands Memorial Chapel was Robertson’s last with the Redlands Symphony before retiring as music director and conductor, and the public obviously knew that.

Dave Maupin, Chairman of the Board of the Redlands Symphony Association, underlined the word love in his remarks before the concert, and love and enthusiasm were in the air as many in the audience couldn’t help but stand as they applauded Robertson on stage before the music started.

For his final Redlands Symphony concert, Robertson chose to begin with the music of Beethoven, his all-time favorite composer, and end with Mozart, who he says is very close to Beethoven.

In between was Samuel Barber’s evocative “Knoxville: Summer 1915” with soprano Angel Blue, a 2005 University of Redlands graduate.

In his pre-concert remarks, Robertson compared the music of Beethoven and Mozart, reflecting on his previous experiences as a pianist over his 65 years of performing.

“If I had to choose a composer who touches me deeply, it would be Beethoven, perhaps because of his ability to overcome obstacles,” Robertson said. He talked about the power of Beethoven’s music and said that as a pianist he feels the music in his hands when conducting Beethoven.

“How wonderful as a goodbye gesture to do one of his grand overtures,” Robertson said of the “Leonore” No. 3 overture that opened the concert.

Unlike Beethoven’s power, Robertson said that when a pianist plays Mozart’s music, “there is an elegance, a charm, a simplicity, a purity”. He compared Mozart’s music to a sorbet that purifies the palate.

For his final performance with the Redlands Symphony, Robertson has chosen Mozart’s Symphony No. 40, the Mozart symphony he says is closest to his heart.

Robertson and the Redlands Symphony Orchestra gave solid and satisfying performances of Beethoven’s ‘Leonora’ Overture No. 3 and Mozart’s 40th Symphony.

The “Leonore” Overture is dramatic and powerful, with the emphasis on drama in Saturday’s performance.

And Mozart’s 40th Symphony, though it has the sherbet elegance that is Mozart’s trademark, is also the most original of Mozart’s symphonies, according to James Keays’ program notes, “and has had the greatest influence on future composers.

It was one of Mozart’s last three symphonies, written in 1788, and it has an intensity that perhaps anticipates Beethoven’s music that was soon to appear. Perhaps that’s why it’s closest to Robertson’s heart.

Between Beethoven and Mozart, it was a completely different musical experience, “Knoxville: Summer 1915” by Samuel Barber, a piece composed in 1947. The text is part of James Agee’s essay “Knoxville: Summer 1915”, which became later the preamble to his Pulitzer Prize-winning “A Death in the Family”.

In the stream of consciousness text, Agee looks back on a summer evening in 1915, when he was 5 years old, with his family at his home in Knoxville. The text and music evoke a warm summer evening with people sitting on the porch and reclining on quilts in the backyard, “talking casually”.

The balmy evening is interrupted by the sound of a streetcar, and there is a foreshadowing of death and the plea “God bless my people…”

But the effect is soft and poignant, rather than dramatic, and after Saturday night’s concert, it’s a fragment of “Knoxville: Summer 1915” that pops into my head.

Soprano Angel Blue’s rich, warm tone was just the thing for “Knoxville,” though at times her tone and that of the orchestra almost blended into one. She has a luxuriously rich velvet voice in all registers.

With a bit of research, I found out that I had heard Blue sing “Knoxville” before – in July 2007 at the Redlands Bowl – and enjoyed it too. This was two years after Blue had graduated from the University of Redlands.

After graduating from Redlands, she completed a Masters in Opera Performance Music at UCLA, and has performed with the English National Opera, at the Bregenz and Edinburgh Festivals and with the ‘Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, among others.

She made her orchestral debut with the Redlands Symphony under Jon Robertson, so Saturday night’s concert was something of a homecoming.

Homecoming means family, and at Robertson’s last concert with the Redlands Symphony, that meant his extended family joined him on stage after Mozart’s last notes disappeared.

Standing with his family, Robertson heard Dave Maupin read a message from the Redlands Symphony Association, naming him Music Director Emeritus.

As if that weren’t enough, Redlands musical theater star Debbie Prutsman took the stage and sang a ‘Valediction for Jon’ as Co Nguyen, the assistant conductor of the Redlands Symphony, conducted the orchestra .

The audience, provided with lyrics and music inserted into their programs, sang in chorus: “May love and laughter brighten your days… May peace and music fill your world with joy forever. May God bless you and keep you until we meet again.

“You sure know how to make a guy cry,” Robertson said.

“Thank you very much for these 33 magnificent years.”

He wished the orchestra a “magnificent future”, saying: “Your new musical director is going to take this orchestra even higher and I know that you will all continue to support it, because it is this support that is needed to grow. “.

His last words were: “So to all of you, God bless you and I love you. Thank you.”

To see Robertson and his family on stage and hear his remarks, go to

Betty Tyler has a Masters in Music and taught piano at Redlands.

About Roy B. Westling

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