Nothing says spring like the symphony
Spring is in the air -- springtime music, that is. We haven't been waiting for snow to melt or the sun to shine, but many of us have been waiting for the invigorating music the symphony will perform this weekend. It is music enthused with newness, and there can be no better place than Honolulu in May to experience the joy of classical music.
Two international stars make their Hawaii debuts in a series of concerts we've titled "Spring Symphony." Slovenian pianist Dubravka Tomsic and Mexican conductor Carlos Miguel Prieto join the orchestra for concerts that include Wagner's Overture to his opera "Tannhäuser," Schumann's First Symphony (the "Spring Symphony" of our title) and one of most popular works in the piano repertoire, Brahms' First Piano Concerto.
In January 1841, Schumann sketched the "Spring Symphony" in an amazing four days. He later revealed to friends that he reflected on springtime images as he wrote. In fact, he urged conductors to share his thoughts with musicians to help them capture the essence of this season of new beginnings and light in their performances. Be sure to remember what comes to mind when you hear the "Spring Symphony's" jubilant theme and friendly melodies.
Another "new" work on the program is Brahms' piano concerto. Certainly, after 150 years it can't truly be considered new. But try to imagine Brahms in his early 20s and his struggle as he approached the composition of his first piano concerto -- at one time in musical history, it was all so new. And in reality the concerto was considered new for more than 50 years because it differed greatly from popular works of the time.
Brahms created a work of hugely challenging proportions, without the usual elements that allowed the soloist a flamboyant display of talent. The piece is incredibly difficult to play and offers no easy ways for the pianist to show off. This is a momentous choice for our pianist, Dubravka Tomsic, but I'm confident she will rise to the challenge of this poetic and passionate masterwork.
It's gratifying to present this program at a time when the symphony is appealing to the community for continued support. This concert showcases many of the true assets of the Honolulu Symphony: the ability to draw international superstars to Hawaii, the capacity to perform the great masterworks of the symphonic repertoire, and the gifted talents and dedication of every member of the orchestra. It's not every day that a city the size of Honolulu sees such a concert. We can count ourselves among the lucky few around the globe able to experience music-making at its finest.
Tom Gulick is executive director of the Honolulu Symphony.