ShareThis Page
Music

PSO's 'The Planets' colorful, vibrant, fresh

| Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018, 12:03 a.m.
John Storgaards
Pittsburgh Symphony
John Storgaards
William Caballero
Pittsburgh Symphony
William Caballero

There’s no doubt a good title helps any work become noticed, but music history is littered with pieces with fine titles and forgettable music. Gustav Holst’s “The Planets” has become one of the most popular orchestral pieces because its music is so colorful and fresh, and much more vibrant than its title alone would suggest.

“The Planets” was first heard 100 years ago, and more inspired by the astrological significance of the planets than by astronomy or ancient mythology. Holst was a virtuoso trombonist who could play the piccolo solo from “Stars and Stripes Forever” on his instrument. But although he wrote other notable music, including “The Hymn of Jesus,” little of it prepares the listener for his imaginative response to his subject or for the brilliance of his orchestration for “The Planets.”

John Storgaards will conduct the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra at concerts Nov. 2-4 at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Hall. The program is Vaino Raitio’s “Moonlight on Jupiter,” Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Horn Concerto No. 4 with William Caballero as soloist, and Holst’s “The Planets” with the female voices of the Mendelssohn Choir.

Storgaards is a Finnish conductor who began his career as a violinist. He went back to school when he felt the urge to become a conductor based on his leadership experience with strings and chamber ensembles. Now he receives enthusiastic reviews for command of the orchestra and his musicality.

Storgaards will open the concert with a piece he says the composer regarded as his best orchestral piece.

“I am very happy to make my debut with the Pittsburgh orchestra with what is probably the North American premiere of ‘Moonlight on Jupiter.’ Raitio is one of the most important Finnish composers and one of those in the shadow of (Jean) Sibelius. He had a totally different style from Sibelius, very much influenced by impressionism and expressionism.”

Raitio said the piece was a memorial to a beloved family cat, but his wife said it resulted from a dream in which the composer imagined himself traveling in space and able to see the seven moons of Jupiter.

The program will be completed by the subscription concert premiere of Mozart’s Horn Concerto No. 4, written in 1786. The late date of this premiere is an oddity of symphony programming. Mozart’s Four Horn Concertos have been popular and widely known since English hornist Dennis Brain’s marvelous 1953 recordings on EMI.

Caballero has been the orchestra’s principal horn since May 1989 and has played two other Mozart Horn Concertos, both Richard Strauss concertos and several other solo works at Heinz Hall. His 2012 performance of the Strauss First Concerto with music director Manfred Honeck has just been released on CD, paired with Honeck’s 2017 performance of the “Eroica” Symphony by Ludwig van Beethoven.

The soloist says the scope of Mozart’s slow movements adds to “a more complete, more dense concerto. There are two cadenzas, and the piece is also vastly more difficult.”

He says the challenge for the player, aside from stamina and “a little bit of high range in the first movement is musical – the shape of the line and what you bring to the music.”

Mark Kanny is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me