Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

February 24, 2014

Beethoven and Brahms

Springfield Symphony Orchestra, Springfield, MA
February 22, 2014
by Eric Sutter

As a folk and pop/rock music reviewer, I was given the task as fill-in reviewer for Springfield Symphony Orchestra's classical concert this week. Thankfully, my 7th grade music teacher stressed the importance of the three B's of classical music. It was fortunate for me that two B's were represented on the evening's program, along with a piece by Arnold Shoenberg. Classical music is beautiful with a high degree of creative structural complexity. Pop music is simple and accessible. To me, the two forms are musically night and day. They have different instrumentation, yet both aim to touch the core of the heart. Both are valid. I think of the English rock group "The Moody Blues" who tried to create a fusion of the two styles for symphonic rock.

The SSO presented Beethoven's "Leonore Overture No. 1, Op. 138" as a passionate lively piece which built dynamic musical tension with the string section. A dramatic change in sound occurred as the woodwinds took to sonic heaven along with a full throttle ending by the Symphony's wonderful brass section. Roll Over Beethoven...

In comes Schoenberg, who I confess that I never heard of. Obviously, others knew his work very well, and the audience loved him. His "Chamber Symphony No. 2 Op. 38" offered two very distinct components. "Adagio" was filled with sad expression of a slow dramatic descent. After the music had climaxed, the decline in harmony was evident with expressive deep emotion. "Con Fuoco, lento" was an equally moody piece where cellos, woodwinds and strings dominated in a harmonic convergence. The crescendo was an elation of string sound with gusto.

Ah ha, Brahms! His piano concerto "No. 1 in D minor, Op 15" was handled genteely by Jon Nakamatsu. The young musician's piano style was light and elegant for the most part with a flawless execution in the dynamic performance. He built the three part piece with gradual intensity that was well thought out. The different moods and tones formed were a gentle piano prelude to a dramatic woodwind climb which exhilarated in the second section of the piece. A slight peaceful mood of light piano and strings introduced the finale followed by the coupling of strings and woodwinds, capped with bold brass propulsion to a tremendous climax.
Concerts like these make this folk/country/blues/rock guy want to return to SSO. There isn't one music genre or style for one kind of person. Stretching one's comfort zone usually a pleasant experience.