Newton Symphony Orchestra Begins 09-10 Season with Brahms and Violin Soloist Markus Placci

October 8, 2009

Newton SymphonyThe Newton Symphony Orchestra (NSO) kicked off it’s 2009-10 season with an all Brahms program including Brahms Violin Concerto, Op. 77 with violin soloist Markus Placci.

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.

James_OrentMaestro 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!

Markus_PlacciAfter 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.

Markus Placci Interview

Photos courtesy of Newton Symphony Orchestra.

2 Responses to Newton Symphony Orchestra Begins 09-10 Season with Brahms and Violin Soloist Markus Placci
  1. What an amazing article. You have captured the essence of the performance and highlighted its major outstanding portions.
    James Orent is superb– Markus Placci is a highly skilled violinist and an enchanting person. and, I agree, that was the best pre-concert talk by Steve Ledbetter , the most interesting that I have heard.
    Thank you for your wonderful comments.

  2. Sorry, in re-reading my response, I found that I did not thank the marvelous N.S.O. for its huge effort and great seccess.

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