Houston Symphony Broadcasts

Wild Winds!

Former music director Hans Graf leads the orchestra in music for winds by Stravinsky, a saxophone concerto by Adams, and a picturesque work by Mussorgsky.

Watercolor painting of three figures in catacombs
Paris Catacombs, watercolor by Viktor Hartmann, 19th century

On the next Houston Symphony Broadcast, Hans Graf returns to lead the orchestra in a wind-heavy program with guest saxophonist Timothy McAllister.

Though it is an orchestra concert, the evening begins with Igor Stravinsky’s Symphonies for Wind Instruments. Without strings, this work amounts to what is essentially an early piece for wind ensemble. At the time, Stravinsky’s three early ballets had already shaken up the classical music scene, and this piece was yet another unusual one for its era, even drawing laughter from the audience at the premiere due to its quirky nature.

Following that, Timothy McAllister joins the orchestra for a work written expressly for him by American composer John Adams. The Saxophone Concerto is a wild ride straight out of the gate, with the ensemble and soloist bursting onto the scene with quick runs that seem to climb higher and higher as they go. For this work, Adams was looking for something of a new sound for the saxophone, one that didn’t sound too classical or too jazzy.

The concert finishes with one of the all-time orchestral favorites, even though the piece was originally written for piano. Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition was inspired by illustrations by Viktor Hartmann, and presents these ideas as if the listener were walking through an exhibit of these pictures, with the famous Promenade theme acting as sort of “walking music” for the scene. Maurice Ravel orchestrated the work in the 1920s, and this is the most famous version of the piece.

You can hear more about this concert from Hans Graf and Timothy McAllister themselves in this interview.

Tune in for this concert Sunday (4/9) on News 88.7 or Wednesday (4/12) on Houston Public Media Classical at 8 PM.

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