Symphony delivers heartfelt Brahms

Sebastian Lang-Lessing
San Antonio Express

The San Antonio Symphony mixed tradition and history with some fun and surprises on the side in its Friday night program at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts.

The tradition came from Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and Brahms’ towering Symphony No. 2. The fun came from perhaps the most unusual opening piece ever from the San Antonio Symphony — but more on that later.

The Brahms symphony’s first movement brimmed with expressions of the composer’s inner emotions while composing amid nature’s beauty and sunshine, adding tension with occasional clouds of doubt and concern.

The third movement delighted with dance themes. Music Director Sebastian Lang-Lessing expertly used tempos and volume to shape the final movement, lowering the volume and slowing tempos before bursts of exuberant excitement, leading the electrifying, triumphant final bars.

Lang-Lessing surprised the audience at the concert’s end with a sweet encore for the audience of almost 1,000 people, the popular Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 5.

Earlier, British pianist Philip Edward Fisher eased into the Beethoven concerto with grace and sparkle, nailing the melodies with crisp precision. Fisher’s extra-long cadenza in the first movement made his skill even more evident. The second-movement largo was stately and hypnotic, enhanced by solos from clarinet principal Ilya Shterenberg.
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