Saturday, May 2, 2015

Beethoven And Saint-Saens Make For Epic Concert In Jones Hall

I love going to hear our world class Houston Symphony Orchestra
anytime in Jones Hall with the fetching Mrs. B, but there are some concert programs that are so awesome they stand above all the others.  That is the case with the concert this weekend in Houston, one of the final concerts in the 2014-2015 concert season.  

Frank Huang - Concertmaster of the Houston Symphony Orchestra

This is a special concert indeed as it not only includes one of my favorite piano concertos of all, Beethoven's first, but it also includes one of my favorite symphonies of all, Camille Saint-Saens epic Symphony #3, aka the "Organ Symphony".   If that isn't enough, the concert program opens with what the HSO web site calls, "Berlioz’s riveting [concert] overture, Le Corsaire, about the imagined dangers and excitement of a pirate's life."

From the Tales previous post, "Beethoven Makes This Second A First" here is what I said regarding Beethoven's piano concerto #1:    

"The concerto called #1 was actually composed after his piano concerto #2.  The reason it is called his first concerto is because in classical music, it is not the time that the piece was composed that determines the number, but when it was published.  Since the second was published first, it is called his first piano concerto.   

Beethoven's piano concerto #1 is in the bright key of C Major with three movements: 1. Allegro con brio  2.Largo  and 3.Allegro Scherzando   In the opening movement there is a long  tutti  introduction of almost 3 minutes before the soloist enters."

From the HSO web site:  "German-Japanese conductor Jun Märkl and young British pianist Benjamin Grosvenor, who won the BBC Young Musician Competition, both make their Houston Symphony debuts."

Camille Saint-Saens [1835-1921]
After intermission is one of my favorite symphonies by the Romantic French composer Camille Saint-Saens, his "Organ Symphony" #3.  This popular symphony which includes a huge symphony orchestra with not only an organ but also a piano for four hands [or sometimes played with two pianos].  The HSO web site says this symphony [sound] has a "rafter-shaking effect".  It is a beautiful and at the same time dramatic symphony.  When the organ enters with a booming chord to begin the final majestic movement, it gives many in the audience [like me] goose bumps!  

From Wikipedia:  "Although this symphony seems to follow the normal four-movement structure, and many recordings break it in this way, it was actually written in two movements: Saint-Saëns intended a novel two-movement symphony. The composer did note in his own analysis of the symphony, however, that while it was cast in two movements, "the traditional four movement structure is maintained".

I consider this dramatic, majestic symphony, epic. 

My wife and I usually attend on the Saturday evening concert, but because the Houston Symphony Orchestra has a conflict on that date, they have moved this concert to Friday night.  As usual when we go to the symphony, I like to give the readers of the classical music posts on the Tales a small sample of the music that we will be enjoying.  

Thanks to the Opus 13 on You Tube for the first video that features pianist Lars Voigt as the soloist, and thanks to Vivas Musica on You Tube for the finale of the Saint-Saens majestic Symphony #3.

Note:  The first movement of the Beethoven piano concerto contains possibly the longest cadenza you will see beginning at the 12:41 mark and lasting for 5 minutes.  It is one of my favorites. 

Please turn up the volume and enjoy some brilliance from Beethoven and Saint-Saens.

L.V. Beethoven: Piano Concerto #1 in C-Major:

Camille Saint-Saens: Symphony #3 "the Organ", in C-minor: Finale, Maestoso-Allegro:

Update:  What a great evening, and awesome concert my wife and I experienced last night at Jones Hall.  It began with a very informative prelude talk that happens 45 minutes before the concert.  The organist in the Saint-Saens Symphony #3 gave the talk and he was great.  I am sorry I didn't write down his name. 

Then came a blockbuster concert program.  First I must say a word about the guest conductor, German-Japanese Jun Marki.  This was his first time conducting our Houston Symphony Orchestra in Jones Hall, but I certainly hope it is not his last.  My wife and I really enjoyed the expressive Maestro.  My wife many times looked at me and smiled at his energy and movements. He performed all three great pieces without the music in front of him.  Amazing job.  His interpretation of all three pieces was perfection to my ears.  I can honestly say, Maestro Marki is right up there with all of the  great guest conductors the Houston Symphony Orchestra has been lucky to have.  Of course, no one surpasses our director, Maestro Andres Orosco-Estrada. 

It began with a piece that I heard for the very first time, Hector Berlioz' riveting concert overture "Le Corsaire".   This was a great concert overture, well performed by our HSO.   We loved it.

Then a first time performer in Jones Hall, young British pianist, Benjamin Grosvenor was very good as soloist in the great Beethoven Piano Concerto #1.   In the first movement, he picked his own cadenza [I am not sure if he wrote for himself] that was nice but not as long as the cadenza Beethoven wrote.  It was a very nice first time performance for the young pianist.

Then after intermission came the stirring Camille Saint-Saens Organ Symphony.  Maestro Marki brought out the drama and beauty of this symphony as well as I have ever heard.  Every section of the Houston Symphony Orchestra was magnificent in this performance.  My wife told me she really enjoyed, more than she thought she would, the Organ Symphony.

Bravo!, Houston Symphony Orchestra.   Thank you!

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