There’s been a change in this weekend’s Omaha Symphony concert. Much admired Joshua Roman, who’s only recently performed with the Orchestra in two concerts will perform in a third. He’s the soloist in Antonin Dvorak’s Cello Concerto. Previously Roman was heard in a 2013 work written from him by American composer Aaron Jay Kernis’s “Dreamsongs” this past Sunday in the Symphony Joslyn series. Last month, Roman stood out superbly in two Tchaikovsky pieces.

Roman was able to remain in Omaha while pianist Stewart Goodyear was unable to come here due to an injury. He would have soloed in Poulenc’s “Aubade:  Concerto Chorégraphique” and Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No.1

Among all cello concertos, Dvořák’s has been called “supreme,” “the greatest,” and the “king” according to Wikipedia where you can also find descriptions and background.

Remaining on the program is Ottorino Respighi’s highly popular “The Pines of Rome.” The four part, 1924, deliberately programmatic suite conjures up images about the past and present in The Eternal City. After delightful suggestions of children at play, a contrast of ancient life gone-by is conjured up in somber suggestions of an enduring burial site. Thereafter a peaceful scene unfolds, as if in a park  where a nightingale sings; a much-famed passage including an actual song in a recording. For a finale, a triumphant time in history is evoked on the Appian Way in what the composer called “ a vision of past glories” suggesting the army of the Consul proudly striding to the Capitoline Hill. 

There’s American music too. Barely three years old. It’s James A. Beckel Jr.’s “Concerto for Brass,” commissioned by the Symphony. This elegiac and lyrical piece celebrates the life of Linda DePue, mother to Indianapolis Symphony concertmaster Zachery DePue. At its heart is a melody the violinist wrote in her memory.

Roman has been called a “classical rock star” by the press. He can be found anywhere from clubs to classrooms, performing jazz, rock, chamber music or solo sonatas. He’s performed his own Cello Concerto with the Illinois Philharmonic and the ProMusica Chamber Orchestra and written a song cycle, “we do it to one another,” based on Tracy K. Smith’s book of poems Life on Mars. He’s a TED Senior Fellow as well asArtistic Advisor of the award-winning contemporary streaming channel “Second Inversion, ” and has his own blog “Cutting Through the Noise.”

“A cellist of extraordinary technical and musical gifts (who) coaxes sounds of remarkable beauty from his instrument,” said the San Francisco Chronicle. And the Seattle Times  called attention to “a big, succulent tone and impassioned style.”  

Symphony Music Director Thomas Wilkins conducts. He just renewed his contract and becomes the symphony’s longest-serving music director. He’ll be out front through the symphony’s 2020-2021 centennial season.

This Omaha Symphony concert is March 17 & 18 at Kiewit Hall, Holland Center, 1200 Douglas St. Fri. & Sat.  7:30 p.m.  $19-$70.

Symphonic Wonders

From Four Nations Over 100 Years

Sergei Prokofiev, Ottorino Respighi, Francis Poulenc, Omaha Symphony, “The Pines of Rome,” “Aubade: Concerto Chorégraphique,” Prokofiev 1st Piano Concerto, James A Beckel Jr.’s “Concerto for Brass,” Linda DePue, Indianapolis Symphony concertmaster Zachery DePue, Stewart Goodyear, The New York Times, Juno Award, Philadelphia Inquirer, Thomas Wilkins

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