Haydn, Previn & Mendelssohn’s “Italian”

I think music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music.
-Billy Joel

That statement could not bear more truth. The astounding concert presented this past weekend by the PSO and legendary composer and guest conductor, André Previn (former music director of the PSO from 1976-84) was delightful. Perhaps, this concert did not fall under the “music healing” category, but none the less, did it’s job as it targeted the joy that exploded in the listeners when our ears relished in the charming and jaunty works presented on this program.

Mr. Previn, nearly 83-years-old gave the premiere of his own Triple Concerto for Trumpet, Horn and Tuba (2011) featuring three outstanding principals from the PSO brass section–horn player William Caballero, tuba player Craig Knox and trumpeter George Vosburgh. Previn received roaring and quite worthy applause from the audience as he came onto the stage and conducted from a chair seated on the podium.

The concert opened with Haydn’s intriguing Symphony No. 102 from the “London Symphonies”. Previn conducted the Haydn as well as, but more so Mendelssohn’s scintillating “Italian” Symphony almost as if he were a seasoned wizard waving his wand. That is not to say he had no gusto—he did, just quite different than Maestro Honeck.  Honeck shows his gusto more through major physical movements and lunges. Both conductors shape the orchestra beautifully.

The Haydn made me smile. A slow sweet smooth intro opens the lilting symphony, and the fun theme is introduced. When the piece changed slight mood (variation) it was as if it was saying it could fool us, but only kidding when the lovely theme reappears again with the sparkling clarity that brought to my mind an image of a sparkling set of wine glasses on display in Macy’s. Perhaps that comparison is inappropriate, but I must confess that is what came to my mind.

Premieres are always a thrill to be a part of. I must say, the beginning of Previn’s Triple concerto caught me quite off guard as the trumpet opened on a very high loud note,  seeming out of character. But, then, what is really out of character musically for a brand new work? One could say Steven Stucky’s “Spirit Voices” was completely out of character, because it explored different, “strange” musical aspects. But, with all works they all evoke some sort of emotion of humanity.

Previn hardly allowed the three soloists to play with each other throughout the three-movement composition. The soloists never really soared at long times alone, but when they did they produced nostalgic and warm tones. I also have never really heard these instruments out of an ensemble setting, which is always exciting. Principals and sections throughout the orchestra were called upon by Previn. Concertmaster Noah-Bendix Balgley had a brief yet lovely solo in the 2nd movement.

Mendelssohn’s “Italian” Symphony concluded the program. Previn especially seemed like a seasoned wizard as conductor here—not to be taken as a belittling term in the least. He cued the sections with a stroke, or flick of the wand and our fabulous PSO explored the vibrant summer day (as I have thought this music perfectly describes) and takes us along with them. It is as if the piece opens having just come out of a summer rain. The spiccato parts represent the raindrops falling off the leaves. The chords gorgeous chords by the strings are the sun and the woods and winds family represents rolling green hills. Such graceful flowers dance at lilting passages and trees march at the brasher parts. The 4th movement—finale is always fun to look forward to for you can always expect grandiose qualities and virtuosity displayed, evermore showcasing the instruments capabilities.

The PSO, soloists, and Previn certainly created an “explosive expression of humanity” at the concert.

1 thought on “Haydn, Previn & Mendelssohn’s “Italian””

  • Oh, wow!! The way you write your blog/review makes me feel like I am there listening to the music!! Your blogs are very interesting and in depth!

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