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SYMPHONY OF NOTE HAYDN, MOZART, MUSSORGSKY: HISTORIC PERFORMANCE BRINGS OUT THE MASTERWORKS
Haydn, Mozart, Mussorgsky: UMW-Community Symphony Orchestra opens season with masterworks

 No longer hidin': Steven Fisher, a violist and Joseph Haydn scholar, discovered a previously unknown symphony while researching the composer's work.
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Date published: 10/22/2009

By JENNIFER STROBEL

KEVIN BARTRAM was scanning his e-mail inbox one day when he came across a message that got right to the point. It read: "My name is Steven Fisher. My viola and I are coming to Fredericksburg, and I want to play in your orchestra."

As conductor of the UMW-Community Symphony Orchestra, Bartram gets occasional inquiries from musicians. Most come from violinists. So a rare note from a violist--and one so seemingly confident--got his attention.

Steven Fisher soon played his viola for Bartram, and was offered his seat with the orchestra, which was rehearsing Joseph Haydn's 104th Symphony.

Fisher had mentioned he was "somewhat" of a Haydn scholar; Bartram had replied politely, saying something to the effect of "OK, fine, that's interesting."

Then, during a break at the first rehearsal, this "somewhat of a Haydn scholar" approached Bartram to suggest a tempo adjustment in the Haydn symphony.

"You just don't do that to a conductor unless you have something to back it up," Bartram recalled later in an interview.

Still skeptical, Bartram next invited this upstart new violist to talk with the orchestra about Haydn. That's when Fisher mentioned very matter-of-factly that he'd discovered a previously unknown Haydn symphony.

Bartram did a double-take: "Excuse me? What did you say?"

According to Bartram, his new musician was a quiet gentleman, not the self-congratulatory type. It took yet another conversation to learn that Fisher is, indeed, one of the world's experts on the music of Joseph Haydn, a classical-era composer whose fame has had staying power through more than three centuries.

Concert-goers have enjoyed Haydn works many times over, but they have never heard the unpublished symphony the UMW-Community Orchestra will perform Friday at its season opening concert.

The single known copy of the piece had been shelved for decades at the Library of Congress, which acquired it as part of a collection in 1909, the centennial year of Haydn's death.

It was Fisher who first noticed the unfamiliar symphony amidst other known Haydn works when he was doing doctoral research in 1976.

Then the detective work began, as Fisher labored to authenticate that the symphony was indeed Haydn's. He traced it to Spain, where an 18th-century scribe copied the manuscript from Haydn's original, now vanished.


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