Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Wraps 2022-23 Season

Brilliant Finale to ‘Summer Shorts’ Series Offered Splendid Program


The last of the three PSO @ THE O’REILLY SUMMER SHORTS concerts played to a large audience last night, and when the final roars of approval died away, so did the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s 2022-23 season become another pleasant, exciting blur of memories for the archives. But there was no sense of regret hovering over the place – just fond memories and the realization that the new season will open with Schumann, Rachmaninoff, Manfred Honeck and more at Heinz Hall on Friday evening, September 29.  Just two short months away, and we’ll all find ways to survive the dearth.

Conductor Jacob Joyce

Last evening’s program brought Jacob Joyce back to the conductor’s stand, and he and the orchestra received a very hearty welcome from the throng in the auditorium; the kind of welcome that sets the tone for an evening. Joyce received quite a welcome, and it was some time before he could raise his baton on Jean SibeliusFinlandia, Opus 26, No. 7, the Finnish composer’s 1899 tone poem that was originally conceived as a covert protest against increasing censorship from the Russian Empire. To avoid Russian censorship, the piece originally was performed under a variety of different titles, but a century and a quarter later, with all but the Russian persecution being ancient history, the music rang out from the instrumentalists on the stage under its original title, and in a manner that would have pleased Sibelius himself. The rousing yet melodic piece runs approximately eight minutes and was played quite movingly by the orchestra.

The second number came close to stopping the show. Pablo De Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen (“Gypsy Airs”) for Violin and Orchestra, Opus 20 (1878) was the piece, played by the orchestra, with Jennifer Orchard, borrowed from the first violin section, as the brilliant soloist. The orchestral music is bold and bright by turns, and Ms. Orchard turned the “trills, grace notes, harmonics, glissandi, pizzicato and spiccati (i.e., bouncing the bow on the strings)” into a virtuosic display that brought the audience to frenzied applause and a standing ovation that continued for some minutes. It was a thrilling reception of a very thrilling performance. Ms. Orchard gave one of the most stellar performances of the closing season, and the audience knew it.

Jennifer Orchard, violinist

Gabriela Lena Frank, the award-winning composer born with a moderate-to-profound neurosensory hearing loss, was next represented by her Selections from ‘Leyendas’ (‘Legends’): An Andean Walkabout for String Orchestra (2001). In her own words, the work “draws inspiration from the idea of mestizaje as envisioned by Peruvian writer José María Arguedas, where cultures can co-exist without the subjugation of one by another.” For the work she draws from Andean folk music traditions, mixed with western classical elements, and the two (too brief) selections played, made quite an impression on a first hearing, and the audience would gladly have listened to more.

A perfect way to send off a season finale audience is to play something from the treasures left for posterity by Antonín Dvořák. Last evening’s selection was his 1889 Symphony No. 8 in G major, Opus 88. Mr. Joyce and the orchestra, of course, played the symphony from its opening G minor Allegro con brio, to its Allegro ma non troppo fourth and final movement, capturing every moment of melancholy, ambiguity and warmth as the instrumentalists masterfully captured the moods and glided between the G minor/G major keys. Mr. Joyce brought out the best of every section – trombones, strings, woodwinds, flutes, trumpets and more – all gave stellar performances in the best PSO traditions. A very long ovation saw the musicians off until they play for us again. So check out the calendar at the PSO website. Late September will be here before we know it, so decide on those subscription packages and/or single tickets while the warm breezes are still here.

Photography by Julie Goetz

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