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Music

Pittsburgh Symphony records concerto by former conductor

| Friday, Feb. 13, 2015, 8:57 p.m.
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra principal oboe Cynthia DeAlmeida with composer and conductor Lucas Richman.
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra principal oboe Cynthia DeAlmeida with composer and conductor Lucas Richman.

When Tom Shaw heard the world premiere of Lucas Richman's Piano Concerto in October 2013, he was so excited that he asked the composer at the post-concert reception, “What would it take to get this recorded?”

“The Pittsburgh Symphony,” was the reply from Richman, who had just conducted the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra in Tennessee.

Shaw, a Knoxville businessman, and his wife, Evelyn, immediately agreed to fund the project.

Richman knew the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra well from his close bonds with its musicians while he was one of the resident conductors from 1998 to 2004. He became music director of the Knoxville Symphony in 2003 and, since 2010, holds the same post with the Bangor Symphony Orchestra in Maine.

The recording was made Feb. 12 when Richman conducted the Pittsburgh Symphony at a special Heinz Hall concert for donors. The program was his Piano Concerto with Jeffrey Biegel as soloist, Three Pieces for Cello and Orchestra with Inbal Sergev as soloist, and the Oboe Concerto (“The Clearing”) performed by the symphony's principal oboist Cynthia Koledo DeAlmeida.

“I kind of felt like I was just floating,” Richman said the morning after the concert. “This whole week, the orchestra was so committed in such a beautiful way that it didn't feel like work. It was just amazing.”

The three pieces are deeply personal statements, all spiritually oriented without being liturgical.

The Oboe Concerto (“The Clearing”) was commissioned by the Pittsburgh Symphony for DeAlmeida, who gave the premiere in 2006 with Sir Andrew Davis conducting.

“It was my idea to choose Lucas” for the commission, DeAlmeida says. “I chose him because all those years they used him a lot to arrange things, and I could tell he knew how to use the orchestra. What a concerto for the lyrical voice of the oboe he wrote. It's like the voice of a cantor. It lies low but is perfect for me.”

The concerto's cadenza is set to Psalm 23, the text of which is unspoken but printed below the notes.

“I had the English translation under the Hebrew text,” she says. “It's very meaningful, especially for people of Christian and Jewish faiths, when you have great music on top of that, or behind it — meaning that is very close to your heart.”

The recording was made by Soundmirror, a Boston company that also records Manfred Honeck and the symphony in concert for Reference Recordings. The Richman CD will be released in late summer by Albany Records.

Mark Kanny is classical music critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7877 or mkanny@tribweb.com.

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