Performance Review: Bach, Beethoven & Brahms

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Performance Review: Bach, Beethoven & Brahms

The Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra Florida Blue Classical Series returned in fine form this weekend with “Bach, Beethoven and Brahms,” a generous and highly enjoyable program consisting of works by three of the most beloved composers in the classical canon. 

Orchestral Suite No. 3, by Johann Sebastian Bach

Music Director Courtney Lewis led a small ensemble of Jacksonville Symphony players to open the concert with J. S. Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D major. The small ensemble performed the entire work while standing, giving the performance an intimate, chamber music feel. The playing was tight and focused, and displayed all of the rhythmic crispness, clarity of texture, and poise that is so vital to Baroque music. The famous second movement (Air) was a particular highlight, performed with a degree of dynamic subtlety and lyrical nuance that kept this famous melody sounding consistently fresh. 

Interested in learning more? Listen to Courtney Lewis speak about the program on Insight or explore a full set of Program Notes.

Overture from The Consecration of the House by Ludwig van Beethoven

The full force of the Symphony returned to the stage for the second offering on the program, Ludwig van Beethoven’s Overture from The Consecration of the House Rich strings and warm woodwinds were in abundance, and the energy and verve with which this work was performed communicated clearly to the audience how happy the musicians were to be returning to the stage for the new season.  

Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor by Johannes Brahms

Following intermission the evening concluded with Johannes Brahms’ monumental Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, featuring pianist Alessio Bax. Courtney Lewis led the orchestra into the dark and stormy opening movement with verve and conviction, choosing tempi that brought out the majesty and drama of this hefty score while never letting the forward momentum lag. From the outset of the first piano entrance Alessio Bax proved himself to have a deep affinity for Brahms, bringing out the often-thick keyboard textures with finely calibrated voicing.  

Courtney Lewis continues to impress as a concerto accompanist, as the near perfect cohesion and balance between soloist and orchestra evidenced. For my ears the second movement (Adagio) was the high point not only of this concerto, but also of the entire evening’s concert. Both soloist and orchestra demonstrated an exquisite degree of dynamic refinement. In the quietest moments, hushed and shimmering strings undergirded the sinuous keyboard lines to create a tapestry of subtle melodic intimacy. Alessio Bax dove headfirst into the bristling concluding Rondo with a boiling energy that drew the entire orchestra along with him. Throughout this concerto there are many moments where individual melodic lines from the various instruments come to the fore, but a special mention must be made of the French Horns, so beloved by Brahms, who brought out their several prominent passages with warmth and fine melodic shaping. 

Despite an unplanned delay due to Hurricane Ian, the indefatigable Courtney Lewis and the Jacksonville Symphony returned to the stage and opened the season with “Bach, Beethoven and Brahms.”  Soloist Alessio Bax joined forces with our hometown team to deliver an evening of world-class music making which left the audience eager for the season ahead. 


Tim Tuller is the Canon for Music at St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral in Jacksonville, Florida. Tuller formerly wrote for the Florida Times-Union as classical music reviewer. 

Watch, Listen and Read

Interested in joining the Jacksonville Symphony for another innovative and engaging Season? Please visit our 2022/23 Season page to learn more about the upcoming Season programming. Additional content for this performance includes an episode of Insight and a full set of Program Notes. Looking for more content? Subscribe to our YouTube Channel to watch concert archives, interviews, behind the scenes content and more.

The Jacksonville Symphony would like to give special thanks to Florida Blue for sponsoring the Classical Series. Additional thanks are given to Tim Tuller for attending the performance and writing this performance review: Bach, Beethoven & Brahms.

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