Mill Valley Philharmonic founder Laurie Cohen, at center, conducts the group’s performance on the MVP Local Parks Tour at the Fort Mason Gallery 308 in 2017. Courtesy image.

The Mill Valley Philharmonic’s opening concert series, There is a Season, celebrates the seasons of the year in music as well as MVP’s 18 seasons under the direction of founder Laurie Cohen, who is retiring in 2018. The fall 2017 program features music that evokes the moods, feelings and colors of fall, winter and spring, as well as s a “concerto for orchestra,” which highlights soloists from the various sections in the orchestra. 
Swiss composer Joachim Raff elicits fall’s moods in Ghostly Round-Dance, the eerie scherzo from Symphony No. 10 (“To Autumn Time”), written in 1879. As a backstory to MVP’s performance, the orchestra’s artistic director discovered what may be the only copy of Symphony No. 10 in the U.S., thanks to the Philadelphia’s Fleisher Collection, world’s largest circulating collection of orchestral performance sets. Ghostly Round-Dance will be conducted by MVP’s assistant conductor, David Gordon.
The sensations of winter can be felt in Arvo Pärt’s Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten, which is scored for string orchestra and bell. Pärt based the music on his reaction to early chant music. The canon’s tangle of lines belies its apparent simplicity – it’s difficult to tell who is playing what. It was the simplicity and purity of Britten’s music that Pärt most admired. The icy purity of the Cantus reminds us of winter. Sadly, Pärt only gained access to Britten’s music after he emigrated from Soviet Estonia, four years after Britten had died.  
Romantic composers were averse to naming their symphonies. They wanted to have the music speak for itself. But after he had written it, Robert Schumann did name his Symphony No. 1 the “Spring” symphony. He wrote to a fellow composer, “I would like the music to suggest the world’s turning green, perhaps with a butterfly hovering in the air, and then, … to show how everything to do with spring is coming alive…” The symhony’s opening has traditionally been associated with the closing lines of Adolf Böttger’s poem, “O wende, wende deinen Lauf/Im Thale blüht der Frühling auf!” (“O, turn, O turn and change your course/In the valley, Spring blooms forth!”).
There is a Season is also a celebration of MVP’s musicians. Alberto Ginastera’s Variaciones Concertantes is a “concerto for orchestra.” That is, it’s a piece that features solo musicians from all the sections of the orchestra: woodwinds, horns, brass, strings and harp, as well as the orchestra itself. Each movement reflects the folkloric music of Argentina, and the finale is an Argentinian malambo.
Looking ahead to the rest of MVP’s season, the orchestra presents two Valentine concerts in February 2018 that feature the music of love. In May 2018, director Laurie Cohen concludes her tenure with MVP with Beethoven’s Ninth, a grand finale.   Now, there is a season. 
Autumn: Joachim Raff, Ghostly Round-dance from Symphony NO. 10, op. 213
Winter: Arvo Pärt, Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten
Alberto Ginastera, Variaciones Concertantes, op. 23
Spring: Robert Schumann, Symphony No. 1 (‘Spring’), op. 38
Free concerts – Walk-in seating
Wednesday, November 15th @ 7:30pm – Mt. Tamalpais United Methodist Church, 410 Sycamore Ave., Mill Valley 
Saturday, November 18th @ 4pm –  Mt. Tamalpais United Methodist Church, Mill Valley
Sunday, November 19th, 2pm – Osher Marin Jewish Community Center, San Rafael

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