PSO puts on tight performance of works by tight-knit trio

03.27.19
Ruth Reinhardt
Portland Press Herald

The Portland Symphony Orchestra’s programs, like those of most orchestras, tend to hop around eras and compositional styles, occasionally with elements that link the works, more typically without them. But the program the orchestra played on Tuesday evening at Merrill Auditorium, “The Schumann Circle,” brought together works by three 19th century German composers who were exceptionally close.

Two of them, Robert Schumann and Clara Wieck Schumann, were married. The third, Johannes Brahms, idolized Robert (who died in 1856, when Brahms was 23) and was in love, almost certainly platonically, with Clara for most of his life (they both lived into the late 1890s). And just as Brahms looked to Robert for advice in his early works, he continued sending his scores to Clara for decades, and took her comments to heart.

At the next concert in the Portland Symphony Orchestra’s Classical series, at Merrill Auditorium on April 28, Marcelo Lehninger will conduct Dvorak’s “New World” Symphony, Sibelius’ Violin Concerto, with Ben Beilman as the soloist, and Kristin Kuster’s “Moxie.”  Information: portlandsymphony.org

On Tuesday, Ruth Reinhardt, a German conductor who studied at the Juilliard School with Alan Gilbert (the director of the New York Philharmonic at the time) and spent two seasons as the assistant conductor at the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, was on the podium. Reinhardt, who is also a violinist, an oboist and a composer, is an energetic presence whose cues are unequivocal, and who drew a rich, gleaming and generally powerful sound from the orchestra, which is precisely what the music at hand demands.

The curtain-raiser was Brahms’ “Tragic Overture” (Op. 81), a work Brahms completed in 1880 and revised the following year. It is a standalone piece; that is, it is not an overture for a particular stage work, and Brahms had no literary work in mind. He just wanted to write a piece that crystalized, in music, the emotions associated with tragedy.
 
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