It’s just the beginning for the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra, a staple of the summer season at Chautauqua Institution. Under the direction of Music Director Rossen Milanov, the CSO will kick off its summer schedule tonight at 8:15 p.m. in the Amphitheater, with a program that is wide ranging, festive and beautiful.
The evening, and the CSO’s 2023 season, as always, opens with Star Spangled Banner composed by John Stafford Smith and arranged by Walter Damrosch.
The program is followed by Beethoven’s Leonore Overture No. 3, Op. 72b; Julia Perry’s Study for Orchestra; and two Elgar works — Enigma Variations and Pomp and Circumstance March.
“The program is quite varied, acting as a preview of the season as a whole which focuses on great classics (Beethoven), new discoveries (Julia Perry) and majestic, sonic tapestries (Elgar),” Milanov said.
Lenelle Morse, a CSO musician of 31 years who sits in the first violin section, said that as the program unfolds with Beethoven and Elgar, the evening includes something for everyone with some recognizable movements like Nimrod, the slow movement in the middle of Elgar’s Enigma Variations.
“It’s a wonderful program to grab the audience,” Morse said. “And opening night, the audience is always so appreciative, and we love hearing that.”
Perry’s piece is the first of the “new discoveries” the CSO will present this season. It is a new piece for the CSO, at a tightly structured seven minutes. Perry was an African American composer, born in Lexington, Kentucky in 1924, who pushed the boundaries of gender and race during a time when few composers of her background gained recognition.
Throughout the summer season and its many performances, the CSO is the foundation of “not just the entertainment, but the enrichment of this community,” Morse said. “There are plenty of people on the grounds who come to Chautauqua partly because of the orchestra and to have us in residence for the entire summer, it’s a wonderful thing for this community.”
For Morse, her work with the CSO has become a lot more than just performing.
“I’ve played in this orchestra longer than any other orchestra and it’s home,” she said. “I love playing here. It’s a wonderful orchestra and these are some of my dearest friends.”
Milanov, who hopes Chautauquans feel “elated and happy to be back in the wonderful Amphitheater,” calls Chautauqua his “summer-music home,” and is excited to be back.
“Performing on stage with the wonderful musicians of the CSO for first time in the season is always exciting and full of energy musical experience,” he said.