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Classical 101

Mostly Brahms on Next Classical Showcase

This evening at 7 on Classical Showcase, it's mostly Brahms in a concert from Walt Disney Concert Hall with the L. A. Philharmonic that includes the Academic Festival Overture and the Second Piano Concerto. The other work on the program is Release (Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra) by contemporary composer Andrew Norman. Music director Gustavo Dudamel leads the orchestra in Brahms' engaging and enjoyable overture written for the occasion of receiving an honorary doctorate from the University of Breslau in 1880. University officials were expecting a big, serious symphony for the event, but what they got was something else. This 10 minute orchestral showpiece is based on student drinking songs and probably upset the sour pusses in the audience but gave mischievous delight to everyone else at the premiere, which Brahms himself conducted. A world premiere from the L. A. Phil is next with American composer Andrew Norman's Release, a work for piano and orchestra that features Emanuel Ax (who will also be the soloist in Brahms Second Piano Concerto). There are unusual sounds in this modernistic piece, but in keeping with the Brahms connection in this concert, we'll hear a recurring motif of two sets of three notes that were significant to him. F-A-E, which stands for frei aber einsam, "free but lonely," which was the motto of his friend, violinist Joseph Joachim, and F-A-F, frei aber froh, "free but happy," which was the monogram Brahms used to describe himself. The concert concludes with Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat. This monumental work from 1881 is about 50 minutes long and is in four, rather than the more usual three movements for a concerto. Truly symphonic in scope, it's also a composition of autumnal beauty and serene repose when compared to the more dramatic First Piano Concerto, especially the beautiful slow movement that opens with a cello solo whose theme Brahms later used in the song, "My Slumber Grows Ever More Peaceful." Emanuel Ax is the perfect soloist for this great concerto, having long been a champion of Brahms piano works. Classical Showcase airs Friday evening at 7 pm on Classical 101. http://youtu.be/wK_PeYn6r4I