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Notes from the Podium by Conductor Futterman

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Posted October 15, 2018 | Bremerton Symphony Orchestra

Notes from the Podium

by Alan Futterman

Music Director of Bremerton Symphony Orchestra

Welcome to the grand opening of our 76th Concert Season.

There are those among us who feel that classical music is merely quaint, dainty, outmoded and sentimental, much like porcelain figurines, useful only as background for period costume dramas. Not this program.

We have Mozart’s most bombastic, intense, grandiose and deeply profound concerto. Our phenomenal pianist will be Kitsap County’s now famous soloist, Mr. Adrian King. The vigorous, dynamic opening does not resemble the refined courtly melodies that we associate with the classical era. Using the largest orchestra Mozart ever assembled for a concerto, this intense, driving and chromatic music foreshadows the gripping death scene from Don Giovanni. Small wonder that this was Beethoven’s favorite piano concerto and the piece he used as a template for his own concerti.

We begin with Beethoven’s equally stentorian Coriolan Overture. Coriolan, AKA Gaius Marcius Coriolanus, was a brilliant Roman general whose great strength and martial prowess was proven in battle against the Volscians. He was immortalized in English by Shakespeare and in German by Heinrich Joseph von Collin. Again, these are not soporific symphonic strains, but rather the thunderous crashes of war and conflict.

Brahms continues this intense musical tradition with his final orchestral masterpiece, the fourth symphony. Between bouts of rage, he regales us with some of the most beautiful phrases ever written. One of our musicians remarked after our first rehearsal, “This is why I play in orchestra.”To quote my colleague, Dr. Jeffrey Snedeker, “One of the major challenges for a composer of symphonies in the 19th century was … to find a balance of old and new… A work’s critical success depended on a balance of past and progressive elements. Johannes Brahms’ fourth symphony is considered a seminal work in achieving this balance.”

Many historians consider this blockbuster to be the very last symphony in the line of Central European masters which begins with Haydn, and Mozart, goes through Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Schumann and ends with Brahms. There are later works called symphonies by Mahler, Bruckner and even Stravinsky but these are completely new entities which are conceptually very different.

Brahms, by combining modern (for 1885) harmonies with suggestions of old music, achieved something entirely new and profound using the well-worn sonata form and even the ancient Passacaglia.  The audience can easily “follow the action” in the finale as the 8-bar chord progression repeats 31 times, but always in a new and different guise. We have a chorale of rage, a Slavonic Dance, a wandering flute leading us from a dark E minor to a brass chorale of hope in a bright E Major, and a diabolical waltz leading to a brilliant conclusion.

Stay tuned for “From the Silver Screen” in November when we explore the music of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather, Woody Allen’s Manhattan, Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, and more.

For more information, click on these links: Bremerton Symphony Orchestra's 2018-19 Season and Vita on Alan Futterman and Bremerton Symphony Association.

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