Mark A. Philbrick
Kory Katseanes, head of BYU music school, will conduct Philharmonic program Nov. 17.

Whether it's a professional orchestra or a student ensemble, new music usually meets with some stiff resistance whenever it's programmed.

But as BYU's Kory Katseanes pointed out recently in an interview with the Deseret News, university orchestras have an obligation to play contemporary works.

"Universities have a responsibility to do new music. It offers a great deal of value for young players and helps them, and audiences, to appreciate it."

And so Katseanes, who is the director of BYU's school of music and head of its orchestra department, didn't hesitate when he had the opportunity of programming a new work by David Sargent.

And while Katseanes knows students are quick to criticize something new, that didn't seem to be the case with the members of the BYU Philharmonic.

"They've withheld judgment and in typical Phiharmonic fashion launched themselves into it."

Sargent was a longtime member of the BYU faculty who recently retired.

"He told me he wanted to write a piece for me and the orchestra," Katseanes said. The 15-minute-long work will receive its premiere at the Philharmonic's first major concert of the season on Nov. 17 in de Jong Concert Hall on the BYU campus.

"It's a fast, big, bustling, aggressive piece with big gestures," Katseanes said, adding that it's not atonal but does employ contemporary idioms.

"It's very listenable and it's not in a vocabulary that people won't understand. It's a very ambitious piece and what strikes me most about it is its energy."

Finding a companion piece to the Sargent wasn't too difficult, Katseanes said. "We're doing Gustav Holst's 'Planets.' It's always fun to do and it's perfectly suited for this concert, and also for us."

"The Planets" requires an enormous ensemble, and Katseanes has that in the Philharmonic. "This is one time where size matters," he said. "You need a huge orchestra, and we're big. We're at about 110 players right now."

Joining them will be members of BYU's Women's Chorus for "Neptune." "The audience will get a thrill out of that," Katseanes promised.

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Rounding out the program will be Claude Debussy's "Iberia," a work that isn't done all that often in concert. "It's a great piece and we're excited to play it." It's not an easy piece to do well, Katseanes said, but it's well worth the effort. "It's rhythmically demanding, like Bach, but it's such a great treat for everyone."

If you go ...

What: BYU Philharmonic, Kory Katseanes, conductor

Where: de Jong Concert Hall, Harris Fine Arts Center, BYU

When: Nov. 17 , 7:30 p.m.

Cost: $10 reserved seating, $6 students

Details: 801-422-4322 or