Named after the gigantic hunter in Greek mythology who threatened to kill all the animals of the world, Orion is perhaps the most visible constellation at night when the skies are clear and our telescopes are at the ready. And nothing will happen to you, notwithstanding the colossally bad reputation of the Greek bully after whose name this constellation is named.

Composer Miguel A. Roig-Francolí, whose take on Orion is more evocative of the astronomical than the mythological, has created in his compelling composition for symphony orchestra a memorable tour de force that puts to work every section of the ensemble to its utmost capacity and to great effect.

Orion is the first section of the three-part Astral Poems, for orchestra. It starts with a forceful introduction set to a marcato figure in the strings. That gives way to a section where the first violin, glockenspiel, and oboe emit solo snippets of melody against a backdrop of strings.

Suddenly a fugue starts – a scherzando in a playfully syncopated manner underpinned by percussion and then set off by a massive response of the brass. The fugue then invites all orchestral sections to join in. The tonality is undefined as if various tonal centers were jockeying up for dominance. There is a huge climax and a return to the ostinato figure of the beginning – one that seems to evoke the gigantic steps of a colossal figure that devastates everything in its path. Another climax is achieved at fortissimo level with a huge cluster chord, and the movement is over.

The work has been played here and in Europe. But its first performance in Cincinnati will take place on Tuesday March 7 at 8 p.m. in Corbett Auditorium on the campus of UC’s College-Conservatory of Music. The concert will be repeated, this time with a multimedia experience by astronomer and visual artist José Francisco Salgado, at the Princeton High School Auditorium on Wed. March 8 at 7:00 pm.

Maestro Mark Gibson will conduct the CCM Philharmonia in a program that also includes more astral music by Gustav Holst: The Planets.

Admission is free, and all readers of this blog are encouraged to take in this concert in which the music of Miguel A. Roig-Francolí a most valuable artistic treasure of our Queen City will be heard by most Cincinnatians for the first time.

Rafael de Acha

Here is a link to the complete Three Astral Poems: