Enjoying live music, the last 2 seasons, has become an extraordinary experience as a performer and an audience member alike. The Omaha symphony has stitched together the programs from its 2020 plans as well as exciting visions of new repertoire for the last half of the 2022 season.
At the Joslyn on January 9th, during a presentation of Dvořák, Walker, and Schumann, it was “Street Song” for Symphonic Brass, by Michael Tilson Thomas, that stole the show. Gems like Thomas’ work are part of the trademark charm of the Joslyn concert series.
Patrick Pfister, the principal Trombone for the Omaha Symphony was good enough to share his thoughts on what makes these programs admirable and enjoyable for artists as well as patrons. On January 14, Pfister detailed for me, that the Thomas piece was actually featured on one of the first Empire Brass recordings he ever owned when he was as young as 13 years old. Knit into his memories of falling in love with symphonic brass as a teenage player, he was finally able perform this unique and rare piece amidst a program of already niche and delightful selections.
Pfister was a delight to hear speak on the Symphony’s programs. He had an astonishing, and quick to recall, conversational rapport with symphonic repertoire. Not only was the catalogue of pieces with which he is familiar exciting to explore over coffee, but his vernacular in describing what makes all these pieces love-able was simultaneously engaging for both a professional musician and a symphonic novice.
Pfister lauded that the Joslyn Series in particular, “[is] a good way to hear composers that aren’t really represented.” Pieces that don’t “require a 70-person orchestra to play” are an ideal feature for the Joslyn’s more intimate space. Many of the great and distinctive programs designed for the Holland, “the big hall,” the Omaha Symphony usually calls home, contain iconic and eagerly anticipated standards. For the Joslyn Series, he continued, “You can look around the world and you’d be hard pressed to find a lot [of the pieces] … that we’re playing in Joslyn…. More oddities that are great works but don’t get the same love.”
Pfister’s perspective on what is endearing to player and listener alike, was affectionate, inclusive, and diverse. He noted his excitement about past loves including Baroque music, Kurt Weil, Strauss, and the avant-garde of the last century. I asked him what he was most excited about presenting to Omaha audiences this spring. He was quick to answer -with his excitement for the 2015 Adam Schoenberg piece, Picture Studies, on the January 14th program. He was also elated to be presenting Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition on the same concert.
January 14th was a fantastic concert! The multimedia animated and still visual vignettes designed by USC Students, and their team leaders, Michael Patterson and Candace Reckinger, which accompanied the Mussorgsky piece were captivating. Pfister, noted that these unusual and specifically engaging program choices are the distinguishing feature of the Omaha Symphony. Audiences can consistently expect to be impressed, and refreshed by the variety of textures and flavor on any of the concert sets, “whether its great music we haven’t played in Omaha in quite a while, or whether its brand-new music, or whether its one of the hidden gems that usually winds up on the Joslyn programs, we are always trying to mix it up. But then the Symphony as a whole… our orchestra has a good blend of pops, rocks…and sometimes chamber music and the opera.”
The Omaha Symphony accompanies Opera Omaha’s productions including this month’s upcoming, Sweeney Todd, by Stephen Sondheim. The luminary musical theatre masterpiece is crafted in such grandiose and imaginative scope that it has often been tackled as an all-consuming work by many great opera companies. This Sweeney, features Susan Clement’s debut as the concept and stage designer for Opera Omaha. Alongside choreographer, David Neuman of Hadestown fame, the stage is set for an absolutely riveting collaboration with the Symphony players.
The entire season in fact is a cornucopia of masterful orchestral music: Berlioz’s Symponie Fantatique in March, Tchaikovsky’s 4tH Symphony, in May, and Time For Three playing Jennifer Higdon’s Concerto 3 – 4, Rachmaninoff's Symphony No. 2.
I cannot wait to see you all there as I get to know this Orchestra, its amazing array of presentations, and its players even better in the coming weeks!
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I grew up in church music and musical theatre. From my collegiate career and beyond I've traveled through opera, the symphony, the theatre and worship as a student, a performer, an entrepreneur, and a journalistic correspondent. I'm thrilled to have an opportunity to share with you some of the incredible and fascinating endeavors I continue to undertake in music and the arts. I don't need you to see the world the way I do, but I'll do everything I can to help you enjoy it as much as I have.