Overture Magazine - 2018-19 Season BSO_Overture_JanFeb_19 | Page 25

RESPGHI PINES OF ROME Colin Currie last appeared with the BSO in February 2016, performing James MacMillan's Percussion Concerto No. 2, Marin Alsop, conductor. About the Concert VARIATIONS ON A THEME BY HAYDN Johannes Brahms Born in Hamburg, Germany, May 7, 1833; died in Vienna, Austria, April 3, 1897 Johannes Brahms was introduced to the theme for his Variations on a Theme by Haydn by Haydn’s biographer C. F. Pohl. However, recent scholarship has proven that this theme was not by Haydn, but probably by his student Ignaz Pleyel. Even Pleyel hadn’t written the tune itself; known as the “Chorale St. Antoni,” it was likely a pilgrims’ hymn from an earlier era. Whatever its origins, the theme had just what Brahms needed to set his imagination afire. Brahms has oboes and bassoons introduce the theme in their distinctive, plaintively colored tones. The ending is picked up in the first variation, where continuous B-flats anchor the free-flowing string lines. All eight variations alternate between B-flat major and minor. Other variations of note include variation 4, a mournful, minor-mode piece led by solo oboe and horn. Darkly colored, it is a tour-de-force of graceful counterpoint with winds and strings trading off the melody. This reverie is blown away by variation 5, a lively scherzo with bright winds and Brahms’ favorite rhythmic play of three beats against two. Hunting horns open the bounding, rhythmically crisp variation 6. Its antithesis is variation 7, a graceful siciliana melody, emphasizing the warm colors of violas and horns. The last variation is a soft, mysterious scurrying of muted strings and winds in the minor mode. For the finale, Brahms built a series of 17 brief variations on the theme in the bass, repeated as a Baroque-style passacaglia. As Brahms’ invention soars above his strict bass, the St. Antoni theme finally emerges in a triumphant apotheosis. Instrumentation: Two flutes, piccolo, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, contrabassoon, four horns, two trumpets, timpani, percussion and strings. PERCUSSION CONCERTO Helen Grime Born 1981, in York, England The young Scottish composer Helen Grime is truly a special musical voice to discover. Listen, for example, to the testimony of the great British conductor Sir Simon Rattle: “I simply was fascinated by Helen’s music. Helen was one of the people who came up through the London Symphony Orchestra’s Young Composers Program, and I was immediately taken with her work.” So impressed was Rattle he arranged for London’s Barbican Centre to commission her to write a two-part work for his inaugural season as the LSO’s music director in 2017–18. Equally impressed was the exciting Scottish percussionist Colin Currie, who has become a great favorite here at the Meyerhoff. “I’ve known Helen and her extremely powerful music for some time now, and we began talking of a concerto some years ago. [Her] recent concertos for Violin and Piano leave me very excited for what could happen for percussion.” That Percussion Concerto written for Currie JA N – F E B 201 9 / OV E R T U R E 23