Houston Symphony

The Summer Symphony Nights Miniseries: Scottish Sojourn

A preview of the first of four concerts from Miller Outdoor Theater to be featured on the Houston Symphony Broadcast this month.

Beginning this coming week on the Houston Symphony Broadcast, we visit Miller Outdoor Theater for the Summer Symphony Nights series! With an impressive roster of guest conductors and soloists, the ExxonMobil Summer Symphony Nights at Miller Outdoor Theater is an annual tradition of four weekend concerts during the month of June, culminating in a fifth concert, the Star Spangled Salute on July 4th. Over the next four weeks, we’ll broadcast those four June concerts from this year, Sundays on News 88.7 and Wednesdays on Houston Public Media Classical! Highlights of the concerts include dazzling solo performances on violin and cello; musical trips abroad with Mendelssohn, Bruch, and Grieg; a pair of suites from beloved twentieth-century ballets; and masterful examples of the Russian symphonic tradition.

For the first concert, the orchestra evokes the sights and sounds of Scotland with works by Mendelssohn and Bruch, followed by Johannes Brahms’ monumental Symphony No. 1 in C minor, with guest conductor Robert Franz and violin soloist Paul Huang.

Felix Mendelssohn’s concert overture The Hebrides is also known as Fingal’s Cave. The Hebrides is an archipelago just off the west coast of Scotland, and Fingal’s Cave is a sea cave on the island of Staffa. This piece was inspired by Mendelssohn’s visit to Scotland in 1829, and the music certainly seems to evoke the sway of the waves as one visits the cave by boat.

Fingal's Cave
Fingal’s Cave

The Scottish Fantasy by Max Bruch was not inspired by any particular place in Scotland, but rather by its traditional music. Each movement of this work for solo violin and orchestra borrows a tune from Scottish folk music, and some tunes even recur throughout the whole piece. The first movement is based on Through the Wood, Laddie; the second, The Dusty Miller; I’m a Doun for Lack o’ Johnnie appears in the third; and finally, Scots Wha Hae makes up the fourth.

The concert concludes with the first symphony by Johannes Brahms, a work with an important place in the symphonic repertoire. Beethoven had mastered the symphony in the nineteenth century, and composers who followed were doomed to comparisons to the elder composer, Brahms being no exception. Still, Brahms was not coy about his reverence to Beethoven’s symphonic model in his First Symphony, and this guide from The Guardian suggests that he is able to set himself apart from that model just as well. Regardless, Brahm’s four symphonies have endured great popularity with orchestras, and the triumphant finale of the first is a fitting end to the first concert of the Summer Symphony Nights.

The first broadcast of the Houston Symphony’s June 17th concert at Miller Outdoor Theater will be on News 88.7 at 8 PM this Sunday (8/14), followed by a repeat broadcast on Houston Public Media Classical at 8 PM the following Wednesday (8/17).

Share