Pensacola, Florida
Sunday December 21st 2014

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A Symphonic Season Finale

By Jessica Forbes

Alliteration and classical music are set to have a grand evening at the Saenger Theatre during “Mozart & Mahler,” the final concert of the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra’s (PSO) 2013—2014 season. For the season’s finale, PSO will perform pieces by the two monumental composers that showcase the talents of the orchestra in uniquely specific ways.

“Our Music Director, Peter Rubardt, is masterful when choosing a program,” said PSO’s executive director Bret Barrow. “The pairing of Mozart and Mahler has a wonderful balance given their similar prominence, but also there are great differences in their use of the orchestra that creates intriguing contrast for the listener.”

The first of the concert’s featured pieces—Mozart’s “Sinfonia Concertante”—features solos by two long-standing members and principals of the orchestra. The second—Mahler’s Symphony No. 1, “Titan”—requires and utilizes more musicians from multiple sections, a perfectly orchestra-encompassing piece to end a symphony’s season.

“The size of the orchestra was greatly expanded by Mahler from that of Mozart,” Barrow said, explaining that Mozart’s “Sinfonia Concertante,” composed in 1779, affords the opportunity to show off two strong soloists on violin and viola accompanied by a string orchestra with two French horns and two oboes.

“It showcases two great talents within the orchestra and is certainly a piece that is cherished by Leonid and Brian,” Barrow stated, referring to PSO musicians Leonid Yanovskiy and Brian Brown. “They leapt at the opportunity to perform it.”

Yanovskiy, a violinist and PSO’s Concertmaster, is also a professor in the Department of Music at the University of West Florida. Brown is a violist from Pensacola who joined the PSO when he was 13 years old and assumed the role of principal viola in 2006. He also conducts the Northwest Florida Symphony Youth Orchestra.

“Brian and Leonid are among the finest musicians in the PSO. They are big parts of the musical fabric of the community through their teaching and performance work. They’ve both also played with the orchestra for a many years,” Barrow said.

After intermission, the PSO will perform Mahler’s Symphony No. 1, which promises to take the audience on a wide-ranging auditory adventure. “For the First Symphony of Mahler, written nearly 110 years after the Mozart, the orchestra is expanded to include a large string section including harp, eight French horns, extensive percussion and a large woodwind force—four flutes, four oboes, four clarinets and three bassoons,” Barrow said. “Beyond the simple expansion of orchestra size, the complexity of Mahler’s writing is another notable change from the more delicate style of Mozart.”

To introduce the Mahler symphony, the PSO will show a video immediately before their performance of the piece, an aspect of the program specifically rolled out for the season finale. “This element was quite popular in last year’s season finale, and I can’t wait to share it with the audience this season,” Barrow stated.

For ticket holders who would like to know even more about the Mozart and Mahler selections, Dr. Larry Reed of UWF’s Department of Music will present on the pieces in his “Classical Conversations” series at 7 p.m., one hour ahead of the concert. There will also be a 2 p.m. dress rehearsal performance open to the public for $5 per person.

Though Saturday’s concert marks the season finale for PSO’s Masterworks Series in the Saenger Theatre, Barrow encourages people to mark the dates of the symphony’s summer shows, both of which are free. “On Mother’s Day, May 11, we’ll be performing at Pensacola Beach at the Gulf Front Pavilion at 7 p.m. and on July 4 we’ll be performing in Seaside, Fla. at the amphitheater at 7:30 p.m.,” Barrow said.

As for the finale, Barrow is expecting its combination of pieces to represent the best of the PSO and Rubardt’s skillful programming, a final triumph capping off a remarkable season. “The best programs create a performance that is greater as a whole than the individual pieces are separately,” Barrow said. “How the pieces interact together and with the audience can make a performance transcendent.”

PSO’S “MOZART & MAHLER”
WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday, April 26
WHERE: The Saenger Theatre, 118 S. Palafox
COST: $22—$84
DETAILS: 435-2533 or pensacolasymphony.com