Adventurous, ‘Inspired’ season ahead for the Pennsylvania Centre Orchestra

The Pennsylvania Centre Orchestra, led by Maestro Yaniv Attar, is comprised of faculty from Penn State, local freelance musicians and top students from the Penn State School of Music.
The Pennsylvania Centre Orchestra, led by Maestro Yaniv Attar, is comprised of faculty from Penn State, local freelance musicians and top students from the Penn State School of Music. Photo provided

With the fall season in full swing and autumn leaves at their peak, the Pennsylvania Centre Orchestra will kick off its 2016-17 season, “Inspired Expressions,” beginning with “Pastoral Scenes” on Oct. 23. .

This season marks Maestro Yaniv Attar’s second year as the music director of the chamber orchestra. In April 2015, Attar came as a guest conductor and music director candidate to work with the orchestra and conduct one of the subscription concerts.

“Over 90 conductors applied for this position, and the orchestra invited three conductors to come and audition,” he said. “In May of that year I was told that I won the position and we started our journey together shortly thereafter.”

A native of Israel, Attar is also an accomplished classical guitarist. He is also the music director of the Whatcom Symphony Orchestra in Bellingham, Wash.

The PCO’s first concert, “Pastoral Scenes,” featuring Canadian violinist Claudia Schaer, will present works inspired by nature: Honegger Pastorale d’été, combined with Beethoven’s Violin Concerto and Symphony No. 6, known for its nickname, Pastoral Symphony.

Nature has always been a source of inspiration for composers, and Attar believes that “Pastoral Scenes” will capture the essence of it.

“The Honegger work, which will open the concert, was inspired by a vacation of the composer to the Swiss Alps,” he said. “If you have not been there, this is as close as you will get. One can almost feel the presence of nature surrounding you while listening to the music.”

After that, the orchestra will play Beethoven’s Violin Concerto and the Pastoral Symphony.

“These works as well, I believe, are inspired by nature,” Attar said. “We get to hear a whole different side of Beethoven — a more gentle, lyrical and, in general, a totally different world of sound that we would normally expect form a composer like Beethoven.”

A native of Calgary, Canada, Schaer was 11 when she received the “most promising violinist” medal at the Canadian Kiwanis Music Festival and won prizes in international competitions thereafter. This past season, Schaer toured Germany, Switzerland and Denmark, giving many solo violin concerts. She is a soloist and concertmaster of New York’s North/South Consonance Ensemble, with which she premiered the Lifchitz Violin Concerto.

In December, PCO will have its annual Messiah performance — a holiday favorite in the community. Handel’s “Messiah” will be performed for two concerts, Dec. 11 at Schwab Auditorium and Dec. 14 at Faith United Methodist Church in Bellefonte. The orchestra will be conducted by Christopher Kiver from Penn State and will feature the Orpheus Singers and professional soloists.

The orchestra’s second concert of the 2016-17 season will be held in the Bellefonte High School Auditorium on Feb. 19. “Mostly Mozart” will include Mozart’s 39th Symphony and the beloved Clarinet Concerto, featuring Israeli clarinetist Moran Katz. In addition, the orchestra will perform a work by Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-George, the first classical composer of African ancestry.

For its last concert, “Voices of the Silenced,” the orchestra will present music by composers who perished in the Holocaust, along with works by Mendelssohn, and a commission written for the PCO. The concert will be performed April 30 at Penn State’s Esber Recital Hall, and will feature local artists from State College in a concerto for violin and piano by Mendelssohn — concertmaster and violinist James Lyon and pianist Timothy Shafer.

“As you can see, it’s a great mix between local and international soloists,” Attar said. “They are all fantastic, and we look forward to working with each one of them.”

Attar tried to program on the safe side in his first year with the orchestra and promises that this season will be more adventurous.

“I am most excited about the Second Symphony of Erwin Schulhoff — a composer who perished in the Holocaust,” he said. “Schulhoff writes in a very jazzy style. He was nicknamed ‘The Gershwin of Europe’ as he incorporated jazz elements into symphony music, way before Gershwin did it in America. You will hear instruments you rarely hear in an orchestra — a saxophone and a banjo.”

The PCO is the only completely professional group in the area, and includes faculty from Penn State, local freelance musicians and top students from the music school.

“It is a tremendous joy for me as a conductor to work with a group of fantastic musicians,” Attar said. “I feel very fortunate that State College has such a wealth of talent here.”

Attar wants the audience to enjoy the music — to hear things they love and are familiar with, but also works they don’t know.

“We want them to be inspired and also challenged by what they hear,” he said. “I think the programing this coming season will reflect all that.”


  • What: Pennsylvania Centre Orchestra’s “Pastoral Scenes”
  • When: 3 p.m. Oct. 23
  • Where: Schwab Auditorium, University Park
  • Info: www.CentreOrchestra.org