Sunday’s Prescott concert of the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of conductor Tito Munoz, was well received by its audience. The concert was part of the “Phoenix Symphony Orchestra in Prescott” series, presented under the auspices of the
Yavapai Symphony Association.
The program began with the adagio from Symphony No. 10 by Gustav Mahler. The understated composition took off in unusual fashion, with the haunting strains of violas, soon to be joined by the rest of the orchestra’s strings. Lyrical themes, intertwined with macabre motifs, highlighted the work. Some themes brought to mind the cinematic music of Harry Potter. The orchestra performed the piece with ample expression. I found it mesmerizing.
Next was another lesser known work, the Symphony No. 1, Jeremiah, by Leonard Bernstein. Bernstein was a fan of Mahler, conducting much of Mahler’s work throughout his conducting career. So it seems fitting that the two men, both of them conductors and composers, should “share” the first half of the afternoon’s performance.
The Bernstein symphony in just three movements begins with the Prophecy, which, at the outset, presents a somber counterpoint of legato strings versus staccato brass. Syncopated rhythms punctuated by bass drum and cymbals characterized the boldly contrived Profanation movement.
The concert’s featured soloist, mezzo soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano, finally appeared in the third movement, Lamentation. She was worth waiting for. Turbulent
orchestral passages gave way to whisper-soft vocal accompaniments, which could have been less constrained given the power of Cano’s rich and expressive voice.
After intermission the audience was treated to more popular fare, the well-loved Symphony No. 1 by Johannes Brahms. He wrote four symphonic masterworks. On this occasion, his first symphony, considered by many to be his finest, did not disappoint.
The opening allegro was tempestuous, even triumphant. The softer, more hopeful and optimistic andante movement featured lovely, solo-violin passages played beautifully by concertmaster Steven Moeckel. Like the second movement, the third movement allegretto was lighter, happier than what had come before and ended in a jubilant theme.
The fourth movement, comprised of an adagio and allegro, opened with expressive pizzicato in the strings, leading to the most lyrical, iconic and magnificent melodic refrains of the entire symphony. Then it was on to an exuberant finale. Brahms saved the best for last!
I think all three composers would be pleased.
The Phoenix Symphony Orchestra performs several concerts each year at the Yavapai College Performing Arts Center, 1100 E. Sheldon St., Prescott. The orchestra’s next concert in Prescott is scheduled for Feb. 25, 2018, at 3 p.m., with a pre-concert informative lecture at 2 p.m. Single ticket prices range from $29 to $42. Student tickets (full time students, with valid student ID, taking 12 or more credits) are available for $10 on the day of the concert only. Season subscriptions are available; season ticket prices represent a 20 percent discount off the single ticket price. For more information call the Yavapai Symphony Association at 928-776-4255.