Since 1965, the Newton Symphony, comprised of its nearly 70 mostly-volunteer orchestral members, has brought world-class musicians and performances to the Newton, Massachusetts area. This season, the NSO takes on Brahms, Debussy, Dvorak, Rachmaninoff, Smetana, Stravinsky, and Tchaikovsky and welcomes Violinist Markus Placci, Cellist Bobby Chen, Clarinetist Ian Greitzer, and Pianist Edit-Maria Fazakas to perform some of the composers’ great concertos.
Maestro James Orent began his second season as Music Director of the Newton Symphony by addressing the audience just prior to the pre-concert lecture by Steven Ledbetter. Maestro Orent welcomed the audience to the orchestra that has been performing for the Newton community for more than 40 years.
Maestro Orent spoke about the challenges of an all Brahms program, but noted the orchestra’s talent and desire to start the new season with a bang! Maestro Orent also spoke passionately about the evening’s soloist, violinist Markus Placci, an artist he has known for many years.
A violinist himself, Maestro Orent described Placci’s technical ability to perform this difficult piece and how not every violinist can perform the Brahms Concerto with the ease that Placci presents. Maestro Orent said that Placci just makes the violin ‘sing’.
Having previously heard Placci perform with the Neponset Valley Philharmonic Orchestra, I anxiously awaited his performance!
Steven Ledbetter presented the pre-concert lecture. I have attended 6 or 8 pre-concert talks, and I must say that I have never enjoyed a pre-concert lecture more! Ledbetter has a wealth of music knowledge, and he was the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Musicologist and Annotator for 19 years.
Ledbetter spoke to the audience about Brahms as though he had known him all his life. His lecture was informative, jovial at times, and above all, warm. He wasn’t overly technical and spoke to the audience in a way that every person in attendance could understand. He pulled me into the story with ease and I loved it!
Markus Placci is a phenomenal violinist. He played the Brahms Concerto with passion and beauty, and at times was very playful with Maestro Orent. The audience sat entranced, and after his performance, all I heard was, “wow”, “wow”, “wow!” What an amazing talent!
After Placci performed the Violin Concerto, the Newton Symphony Orchestra performed Brahms Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68. It’s a four-movement symphony, and it was much longer than I expected. It was a very interesting work, and I look forward to hearing it again and learning more about it.
At times, I found the work confusing. Each of the four movements is vastly different from each other, and as I tried to listen for recurring themes or recapitulation, I really didn’t find any. But with a 45-minute symphony, I might not have noticed them! The orchestra performed the piece beautifully, and it is an extraordinary work.
It is said that Brahms took between 8 and 21 years to complete Symphony No. 1. Brahms wanted his first symphony to be perfect and it went though many iterations and re-writes over the years. Many people compared it to Beethoven and actually dubbed it Beethoven’s 10th, which of course did not exist. People felt that it was modeled tightly after Beethoven’s style, which Brahms purposefully intended to be as a showing of respect. When people compared Symphony No. 1 to Beethoven’s works, Brahms replied, “any ass can see that!”
The Newton Symphony Orchestra is a wonderful community orchestra with a wealth of talent. The musicians, some who have been with the orchestra for 20 years, are mostly volunteers from the Newton area and perform for their community simply for the love of music.
Maestro Orent is a Newton native with an impressive resume. He debuted as a conductor at the early age of 18, and has performed worldwide as both violinist and conductor. He has been a member of the Boston Symphony family for years, and has conducted the Boston Pops on 50 occasions. In addition to the Newton Symphony, Maestro Orent is also the Music Director of the Phillips Andover Academy Symphony and Chamber Orchestras.
The Newton Symphony Orchestra was created 43 years ago in the spirit of bringing music to the community. The audience for this all Brahms evening was a mix of young, middle aged, and mature patrons, all with the same desire to be enriched by beautiful music. This night, they were given a great gift, and the spirit of community continues on.
Photos courtesy of Newton Symphony Orchestra.
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