UConn Symphony presents the work of an African-American composer

The evening also highlighted the two winning students of this year’s Concerto Competition.

Conductor Paul McShee tells the story of Margaret Bonds, a composer and activist who wrote in the 1950s and 1960s, whose composition “Montgomery Variations” debuted on December 6. (Lucas Voghell ’20 (CLAS) / UConn Photo)

The UConn Symphony Orchestra premiered a performance of a hitherto unknown composition by pioneering African-American composer Margaret Bonds as part of its 2018 Aria / Concerto Laureates Program, on Thursday, December 6 at von der Mehden Recital Hall.

Bonds wrote “The Montgomery Variations” as a tribute to Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. but never heard the work performed. The score was among the objects in Bonds’ estate after his death and was discovered among documents in the Bonds archives at the Georgetown University library.

A musical prodigy, Bonds in 1933 became the first African-American soloist to perform with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the age of 20 and later played a key role in the development of classical and musical theater in the Twentieth century.

The program also included the east coast premiere of Scott Joplin’s “Overture to Treemonisha”, as well as the two winners of this year’s Concerto Competition.

Doctoral student Andy Peng played the first movement of “Sibelius Violin Concerto” and Principal Music Major Teryn Kuzma sang “O wär ich schon” from “Fidelio” by Beethoven and “Una donna a quindici anni” by “Cosi Mozart fan Tutte ”.

This year’s Aria Symphony / Concerto performance was part of UConn’s celebration of the 50th anniversary of the African American Cultural Center.

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