The Annapolis Symphony Orchestra (ASO), under the direction of Artistic Director and Conductor José-Luis Novo, will present “Two Romantics: Brahms & Prokofiev” at Maryland Hall, with guest artist violinist Esther Yoo. The ASO will perform on Friday, March 31st, and Saturday, April 1st at 8 PM at Maryland Hall in Annapolis, Maryland.
The performance opens with Behzad Ranjbaran’s composition “Esther,” a piece inspired by themes of bravery, tolerance, conspiracy, and compassion in the ancient Biblical story of the Jewish heroine Esther. While Ranjbaran’s music is rooted in neo-romanticism, it is strongly influenced by non-Western, especially Persian classical music. Ranjbaran composed Esther in 2015 on commission from the Binghamton Philharmonic.
Of his composition, Ranjbaran wrote: “Much of the story of Esther takes place in Susa, the ancient capital of Persia famed for its magnificent buildings and beautiful gardens. My music doesn’t follow the Biblical narrative scene by scene; rather it is a reflection on Susa, Esther’s character, the Feast of Purim and the story’s themes of bravery, tolerance, conspiracy and compassion. The first movement, “The Seven Trumpets of the Gates of Susa” refers to the splendid city of Susa mentioned in the Bible and many historical sources. Seven is a mythological number, for example: the seven seas, skies, and the days of the week. This symbolic number plays an important role in the organization of the musical materials, rhythm, and the structure of the piece. New sections often begin with a simultaneous stroke of Tam-tam and bells, each time a step higher. The movement culminates with a brass fanfare again emphasizing the number seven.”
The second piece in the evening’s repertoire features Sergei Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 1 with guest artist Esther Yoo. Envisioned as a modest violin concertino, Prokofiev’s Concerto No. 1 became an important symphonic work in both scope and complexity. Prokofiev combined the harsh dissonances and spiky melodies that scandalized his professors at the Moscow Conservatory with romantic passages of elegant lyricism.
Esther Yoo began playing the violin at four years old and made her concerto debut aged eight. At sixteen, she became the youngest prizewinner of the International Sibelius Violin Competition and two years later was one of the youngest ever prizewinners of the Queen Elizabeth Competition. In 2014 she became a BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist, and in 2018 was selected as one of Classic FM’s Top 30 Artists under 30. In 2020 WQXR named her one of twenty Artists to Watch.
The evening concludes with Johannes Brahms’ Symphony No. 2. The symphony’s sunny spirit – especially the last two movements – and relatively transparent orchestration induced one of the composer’s friends to exclaim: “It is all rippling streams, blue sky, sunshine, and cool green shadows.” The premiere in Vienna on December 30th, 1877, under the baton of Hans Richter, was an unqualified success.