Masters of music: ASO, guest artist present works of Brahms, Schumann

The Altoona Symphony Orchestra is rounding out its season with musical mastery.

The ASO’s 2012-13 season will conclude with the concert entitled “Brahms 4th,” after the last symphony of German composer Johannes Brahms.

“This concert features two key composers in the history of German Romanticism: Robert Schumann and Johannes Brahms,” ASO Maestra Teresa Cheung said in an email. “The friendship of the two composers has been well documented. As a composer and a music critic, Schumann wrote [openly] about his beliefs in Brahms’ music, so in many ways, Brahms owed his success to the unwavering support of Schumann, a composer, mentor and close friend 23 years his senior.”

The concert includes an overture from Schumann’s only opera, “Genoveva,” and his only concerto for the cello, Cheung said. Schumann wrote the compositions just before his death in 1856.

“Brahms’ No. 4 in E minor,” his last symphony, will compose the second half of the concert, Cheung said.

“The work was not a nod to the future as many of the composers at the time would favor; rather, it was Brahms’ salute to the grand tradition of German music by incorporating the theme of Johann Sebastian Bach’s ‘Cantata 150’ in the last movement of this great work,” she said. “This concert is going to allow our audience to discover how simple ideas [can] be crafted and turned into something extraordinary in the hand of a master.”

The concert will feature cellist and conductor Ovidiu Marinescu playing the cello concerto by Schumann.

“I feel a deep, personal connection to this work, perhaps because I’ve had the opportunity to perform it many times, and each time it seems to reveal more and more of its messages hidden behind the notes,” he said in an email. “Last month, when I played it most recently, I had a new revelation: I felt that the slow, lyrical second movement represents the innocent soul of a 5-year old, the inner child in each of us.”

Under Schumann’s design, the three movements of the concerto should have no pauses between playing them, Marinescu said.

“A unique aspect of this concerto is a certain duality of emotion and character. The concerto has a sweet melancholy contrasted with a more heroic side. Perhaps this is a manifestation of [Schumann’s] fictional characters Florestan and Eusebius he created in 1831 as a reaction to Jean Paul Richter’s use of twins to express the duality of a man’s personality,” he said.

“The two characters represented the dual personality he imagined for himself. Florestan represented Schumann’s masculine side, and Eusebius his feminine characteristics. Another possible explanation of this duality is a possible artistic and subconscious manifestation of his life-long struggle with mental illness, possibly bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, first occurring in 1833 as a severe melancholic depressive episode alternating with phases of exaltation.”

Among many accomplishments as a musician and a conductor, Marinescu, who is director of the West Chester University Symphony, has played throughout the world including Carnegie Hall, according to his resume. Marinescu, who is from Romania, is also a regular guest conductor at the Russian Philharmonic Orchestra.

“Ovidiu is one of the most amazing and versatile artists I have ever met. Besides being a wonderful cellist, he is also a fantastic teacher and conductor,” Cheung said. “What is so unique about him is the value that [he] puts on music and how he influences so many young lives with not just the cello, but as an interpreter of symphonic music because of his conducting. I have worked with many solo artists, but performing with someone like Ovidiu is something extraordinary because of his in-depth knowledge of the entire score.”

This is Marinescu’s first performance with the ASO. He cannot wait, he said.

“I had the pleasure of hearing the orchestra in a wonderful rehearsal last September, where Maestra Cheung inspired the musicians in Ravel,” he said. “I hope the audience will be able to use the performance as a vehicle for introspection, inspiration and artistic energy.”

Mirror Staff Writer Amanda Gabeletto is at 949-7030.