Performance Review: Beethoven, Brahms & Dinnerstein
The Jacksonville Symphony’s Florida Blue Classical Series continued this weekend with “Beethoven, Brahms & Dinnerstein,” a bold and generous program featuring two mainstays of the repertoire alongside a recent work by a young, contemporary composer.
Lumina by Nina Shekhar
Opening the program was a short, orchestral piece entitled Lumina by Nina Shekhar. Born in 1995, Shekhar has developed a musical language that blends traditional, Western musical styles with those of Eastern cultures. Helpful opening remarks by Music Director Courtney Lewis led the audience through some of the more unusual things they would be hearing, including avant-garde percussion techniques and the use of microtones, which while common in the music of other world cultures, are a rather novel experience for most symphony goers. Written in 2022, Lumina employs Shekhar’s unique and original musical voice in a visceral, aural exploration of light and darkness, which left me eager to hear more from this promising young composer.
Symphony No. 4 in B-flat major, Op. 60 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Second on offer was Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4 in B-flat major. One of the less frequently performed of Beethoven’s nine symphonies, the influence of Beethoven’s mentor, Joseph Haydn, looms large in this work. The first movement was dispatched with a stately verve, which brought out the bright and lively character of the themes to the fullest. The second movement, Adagio, was a highlight for this listener, combining as it did unflagging lyricism with structural clarity. The final movement was noteworthy in the precision and rhythmic drive of the string playing, wrapping up the performance with a crackling energy that sent audience members heading to intermission with a smile and eager for what was to come in the second half.
Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat major, Op. 83 by Johannes Brahms
Third on the program was the concert’s weightiest offering, the mighty Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat major by Johannes Brahms. Courtney Lewis and the Jacksonville Symphony have developed a reputation for bringing fresh insight into well-worn repertoire both with their own playing and with the caliber of the guest soloists they collaborate with. That reputation continued apace this evening. From the opening bars, it was clear that this was going to be no ordinary performance. Following an elegantly phrased opening horn solo by principal horn Kevin Reid, the very first bar of the piano entrance communicated to all that this work holds a place of deep and special meaning to Dinnerstein. Every phrase approached with the most probing and sensitive insight. There was an ever-present lyrical quality to her playing, coupled with a fullness of sonority that at times conjured the impression of a large organ or brass choir in its sheer fullness. For me, the highlight of the concerto, and indeed the entire concert, was the sublime third movement, Adagio. Principal cello Alexei Romanenko acquitted himself splendidly on the famous melody that opens the movement, leading the way for the piano entrance that played throughout with exquisite subtlety of expression. Also of note were the clarinets whose lines shimmered with lush resonance and a seemingly infinite dynamic control. The final movement tied up the evening in rousing fashion with a grateful audience jumping to its feet in grateful recognition of an evening of music characterized by boldness, subtlety and passion.
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 the classical music reviewer.
Watch, Listen and Read
Interested in joining the Jacksonville Symphony for another innovative and engaging season? Please visit our 2023/24 Season page to learn more about the upcoming season’s 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: Beethoven, Brahms & Dinnerstein.