It can’t be easy following in the footsteps of greatness. As in, Beethoven greatness. Such was the fate of Johannes Brahms back in the day. Like, way back. The poor guy. He tortured himself with Ludwig’s symphonies in his ear, while trying to create his own music. He did alright though, writing a piece or two that has stood the test of time. His Lullaby for starters is the one that nearly every child has heard. Another is his Piano Concerto No. 2. We were fortunate to hear it performed live recently by the New Jersey Symphony, featuring Daniil Trifonov on piano, who infused life into this 146-year-old song!
There’s nothing like hearing the New Jersey Symphony live at the intimate Richardson Auditorium in Princeton, NJ. The Steinway piano that Trifonov played took up a good portion of the stage — that’s how intimate it was! Every seat is a good one at this venue and the sound just envelops you. It’s the passion of these professional musicians that helps one to appreciate the classics.
And the nice thing about classical music is that without words, you are left to simply focus on the sounds of the instruments. In a live performance, by such amazing and talented musicians, it can just take your breath away.
Like most major performances of depth, a well-written program guide helps the audience to understand what one is in for and the history behind the composers and artists. The New Jersey Symphony provides a good bit of information.
In the performance notes, Laurie Shulman provides a glimpse of what's to come. She writes, “Brahms was a conservative in the best sense: conserving quality, standards, and the nobility of purpose that characterizes great music without any extramusical association…. With sweeping, majestic themes and significant roles for both horn and cello as well as piano, this concerto ennobles all who interact with it, including pianist, conductor, orchestra, and audience. A sublime French horn theme introduces this concerto, floating unsupported without the orchestra. A great musical drama ensues. The scherzo is a total change of pace: passionate, impetuous, and hefty. The slow movement showcases a gorgeous cello solo, while the finale is permeated by Brahms’s sense of humor, sometimes subtle, sometimes uproarious, always delicious.”
Well then! What she said!
To us novices, the music is just beautiful and a pleasure to hear it performed by such talented musicians.
In addition to Brahms, the New Jersey Symphony also performed two pieces by Richard Strauss, Don Juan and Suite from Der Rosenkavalier. Even if you’re not familiar with the titles (few of us are), you will have probably heard a note or two in your life.
The New Jersey Symphony has started the year right and has set a course for adventure in 2023! The Symphony will celebrate the Lunar New Year with a performance at NJPAC in Newark on January 21. Then, on February 4, the Symphony is performing the musical soundtrack to a showing of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 at NJPAC. The Symphony is also performing The Best of John Williams on February 24–26 at Red Bank, NJPAC, and New Brunswick theaters. From May 18–21, the Symphony performs the soundtrack to a showing of The Empire Strikes Back in Morristown, Red Bank, NJPAC, and New Brunswick. Always a thrill!
Make this year the one where you step inside the classics and enjoy a performance or two by the very talented New Jersey Symphony.
Until next time, peace!