The Columbus Symphony This Weekend

Composer John Estacio, whose music is played by the Columbus Symphony, this weekend in the Ohio Theater(Photo: Wade Kelly)
Composer John Estacio, whose music is played by the Columbus Symphony, this weekend in the Ohio Theater(Photo: Wade Kelly)

It’s the beginning of the 2013-2014 Classical Series, after a phenomenal opening gala with Mahler’s Symphony no. 2 this past Saturday.

How do you top the Mahler’s 2nd?

You don’t. You do program two of the most loved pieces in the repertoire, and for different reasons two of the most fascinating.

Jean-Marie Zeitouni conducts and pianist Maxim Mogilevsky perform Rachmaninoff’s Piano concerto no. 2

Rachmaninoff’s lush and dark sound palate I believe comes from the music of the Russian church. Not a churchgoer in later life, the composer was raised in a well to do home with ties to Russian Orthodoxy. Rachmaninoff later wrote two magnificent services for the Orthodox Church, the All Night Vigil, and the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. I think it is the ancient Slavic chants that inspired this church music that Sergei Rachmaninoff had in his ear as he became a mature composer

Brahms wrote his fourth symphony during the summers of 1883 and 1884, and conducted the premiere the following year. Johannes Brahms had at his disposal one of Europe’s great orchestras, at the court of Meiningen. This provided a laboratory for Brahms to plan and finesse his orchestral works prior to their launch in Berlin, Vienna, Paris and New York. An early four hand piano preview of this symphony didn’t go well. The critic Eduard Hanslick told Brahms, “I feel like I’ve been flayed alive.”

But after polished and full strength performances in Meingigen and Berlin, this symphony took off. There are two features to this work that make it more than notable. The first is the sublime second movement. It comes across as drama, not merely the repose of the traditional adagio-but it does that, too. The fourth movement is a theme and 32 variations. People have counted them all but I’m damned if I can. But above all, Brahms 4th Symphony gives us energy and forward moment of a composer working against the stasis some heard in Wagner.

All music was once new. Maestro Zeitouni brings us a Canadian composer he greatly admires, John Estacio, and a piece called, irresistibly, Brio. It’s new music to open a new season that brings us Bruckner, Bizet, Mozart, Ravel and Peter Lieberson.

Join me for pre-concert talks one hour before every concert!

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