Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

April 16, 2012

Schuman, Mozart & Schumann

Springfield Symphony, Springfield, MA
April 14, 2012
by Michael J. Moran

For the fifth concert in its 2011-2012 "Classical" series, Music Director Kevin Rhodes indulged his love for "puns, word games, and language silliness" noted in the program book by leading the Springfield Symphony Orchestra in a concert of music by Schuman and Schumann, with a piece of Mozart in between.

In pre-concert remarks, Rhodes introduced William Schuman’s 18-minute "Symphony for Strings (Symphony No. 5)" as an "homage to the baroque," with each of its three short movements evoking a dance form of that era. From the vigor of the opening fugue through the heartfelt slow movement and the lively finale, Rhodes’ love for this composer’s music produced as passionate an account as their presentation earlier this season of Schuman’s masterful third symphony.

Next came Mozart’s "Piano Concerto No. 25 in C Major," soloist Spencer Myer’s own choice for his SSO debut. The 32-year-old Juilliard graduate from Ohio was the 2008 Gold Medalist at the New Orleans International Piano Competition and has many orchestral, recital, and chamber music performances to his credit on five continents.

The concerto is one of Mozart’s last (1786) and largest (32 minutes). The first movement opened with a festive horn fanfare, but the piano’s entrance several minutes later was much quieter and more subtle. Myer and the orchestra kept the shifting moods and tempos of all three movements in perfect balance between classical restraint and aristocratic grandeur. Their efforts were rewarded with a standing ovation.

Intermission was followed by a blazing rendition of Robert Schumann’s "Symphony No. 2 in C Major," written in 1845 as the composer was recovering from a period of ill health. The slow opening of the first movement featured a more solemn fanfare than Mozart’s, but the contrasting Allegro that followed brought with it an almost manic energy which only let up for a deeply moving version of the Adagio third movement.

The freshness and joy of the performance on a mild April evening made this symphony sound more like Schumann’s "Spring" symphony than even his first symphony does, which actually bears that nickname.