Schenectady Symphony concert to feature pieces from Classical period

British pianist Philip Fisher will be the soloist at Sunday's Schenectady Symphony Orchestra concert. (photo provided)
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British pianist Philip Fisher will be the soloist at Sunday's Schenectady Symphony Orchestra concert. (photo provided)

The Schenectady Symphony Orchestra’s concert on Sunday will be not just entertainment but a bit of a musical history lesson.

“This season we’ve been taking a time machine into different time periods from the Baroque to the Romantic,” said music director Glen Cortese. “This concert is centered around the Classical period.”

For many musicologists, this period is typified by the work of composers such as Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven or music written pretty much from the late 1700s to the middle 1800s. Of those composers, the concert will include Antonio Salieri’s “Sinfonia in D Major” from 1779.

“This piece is very representative of the era,” Cortese said. “He followed all the rules of the road. It’s fun, energetic, short … crystalline. It’s a polished diamond, sunny and bright.”

Salieri was Emperor Joseph II’s court Kapellmeister from 1788 to 1824 and enjoyed considerable success, especially with opera. In his position — despite rumors of the so-called rivalry he had with the younger Mozart as depicted in the 1984 movie “Amadeus” — Salieri often arranged to have Mozart’s work presented.

“Salieri was a great composer in his own right,” Cortese said.

But in 1785, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote his Piano Concerto in D minor that is one of more than a dozen he wrote between 1784 and 1786 as ways to make money with him as the soloist. While they’re all considered marvelous, this concerto has a different inflection.

“It’s where he explores a romantic, dramatic voice,” Cortese said. “It’s classical but stretches the boundaries with pathos and depth. It’s intense … almost Beethovian, unbridled in its passion.”

The three movements show off Mozart’s penchant to have wonderful conversations between the piano and orchestra in the first movement, a soulful slow inner movement and a bubbly, witty finale. British pianist Philip Fisher will be the soloist.

“He’s an amazing pianist,” Cortese said.

This will be Fisher’s second appearance with the orchestra. Last season he was featured during the orchestra’s virtual concert season in a Back to Basic program.

“I’m thrilled to be returning.” Fisher said in a release. “There is simply nothing that can replace the thrill of making music for a live audience.”

Gioachino Rossini’s “Overture to the Barber of Seville” of 1816 is also looking forward to the Romantic period.

“It’s a crossover and smack in the middle of his output,” Cortese said. “It has a classical structure but more in an Italian voice than the Viennese of Mozart. It has a virtuosic orchestra and a fireworks kind of aesthetic vs. the internal pathos and drama of Mozart. It’s a tour-de-force.”

The SSO is also doing the original version of Rossini’s orchestration in that there are no trombones and a smaller brass section. He probably wrote it at the last minute, something he was famous for doing, Cortese said.

The composer who most connect to the Romantic period, Johannes Brahms, is represented here because his piece of 1873, “Variations on a Theme by Haydn,” is based on Haydn’s 1780 “St. Anthony’s Chorale.”

“It’s a very classical approach to his variations making and he stuck to the chorale,” Cortese said. “But the harmony and melody are romantic in his own piece. It’s how older music can affect music of a later era.”

For this concert, there will be only about 45 musicians with no lower brass, no percussion except for timpani, no harp and only strings and woodwinds.

Schenectady Symphony Orchestra

WHEN: 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 29
WHERE: Proctors
HOW MUCH: $22, $15, free for 18 and under
MORE INFO: www.proctors.org; 518 346 6204

Categories: Entertainment, Life and Arts, Life and Arts, Schenectady

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