Lively and no doubt unfamiliar music kicks off this month’s Omaha Symphony Masterworks concert. It’s “Agnegram” from 1998, written by famed conductor Michael Tilson Thomas. He describes it a march for a large orchestra, throwing in fragments of sound to create a “jazzy, hyper-rangy tune, quite a jungle-like cacophony (with) goofball percussion” and includes “a kind of sly circus atmosphere” plus a “jubilant and noisy ending.” Sounds like fun, huh? The title, Thomas explains, is to celebrate the spirit of San Francisco Symphony patron and friend Agnes Albert when she hit age 90.
On the podium is a man who was just ten years old when this composition stirred audiences. He’s Teddy Abrams, who’s also on hand to conduct the drama and swirl of much-loved works by Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky. Abrams has major credits, e.g. leading the Houston, San Francisco, Indianapolis and Detroit Symphonies.
Rachmaninoff’s is his Third Piano Concerto, described in the Symphony’s program book by an unidentified annotator (probably Paul Schiavo) as one with “extraordinary virtuosic and musical demands” for the soloist in “one of the most challenging works in the piano concerto repertoire.” Adding that there’s a need for the pianist to combine such virtuosity with “ a chamber musician’s ability” to listen to and blend with the orchestra.
The soloist is Abrams’ contemporary Natasha Peremski, born in Moscow in 1987, now a U.S. citizen. By her mid-20s, she was making quite a name for herself, awarded the Classical Recording Foundation’s Young Artist of the Year; her first recital album ranked No. 9 on the Billboard Traditional Classical chart. Also Gabriel Kahane wrote a sonata for her and John Corigliano asked her to solo in his Piano Concerto. Peremski has been the featured pianist in choreographer Benjamin Millepied’s Danse Concertantes at New York’s Joyce Theater, appeared in a two-part film for BBC Television on the life and work of Tchaikovsky which was shot on location in St. Petersburg, during which she performed excerpts from Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto. And she’s in a film about Robert and Clara Schumann starring Sting.
Moreover Peremski has performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, San Diego Symphony, Toronto Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, Houston Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra and more
Abrams aims to bring out the charm and warmth of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 2. “The Little Russian,” as it’s known. It spins off Ukrainian (“Little Russian” ) folksongs. Scholars have identified some of them according to the program annotator, saying that much of the thematic material has a folksong quality, “even if it’s Tchaikovsky’s own.” The Finale was the composer’s own favorite movement.
Several favorites here. Plus something rather new and surprising.
This Omaha Symphony concert is on October 20 & 21, Kiewit Hall, Holland Center, 1200 Douglas St. Fri. & Sat. 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $19-$79. www.omahasymphony.org