Critics Choice Brahms and Bizet

August 12, 2010

The Brahms and Bizet performance by the Grant Park Music Festival selected as Critics Choice by the Chicago Reader.

Brahms was 21 when he set out to write his first symphony in 1854, but he soon decided the task was beyond him and set about reworking it: first it became a sonata for two pianos, and more than four years later parts of it ended up in the first movement of his Piano Concerto No. 1. That concerto is one of Brahms's most impassioned works, opening with thundering timpani, fiery trills, and dramatic melodic leaps that foreshadow its anguish and grandeur. There are also many quiet, tender moments, including the soloist's first entrance and the second movement's warm and mostly serene adagio, but the third and final movement is an exhilarating rondo that begins in D minor, then shifts into D major before concluding with an uplifting coda. The pianist will be Horacio Gutierrez, a veteran of the virtuoso repertory and silver medalist at the 1970 International Tchaikovsky Competition. The program begins with Saint-Saens's "Marche Militaire Francaise" (from his Suite Algerienne), followed by Georges Bizet's Symphony No. 1 in C Major and concluding with the Brahms concerto. Bizet, best known for his opera Carmen, composed his exuberant first symphony while a 17-year-old student at the Paris Conservatory in 1855, but it remained unknown by the public till it was discovered in that institution's archives in 1933. Carlos Kalmar conducts. There will be open rehearsals Tue 8/17 (11 AM-1:30 PM, 3-5:30 PM) and 8/18 (11 AM-1:30 PM). Performance August 18, 6:30 PM, Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park.

Barbara Yaross, Chicago Reader