Spotlight Columns

Folsom Symphony presents a ‘Light Out of the Darkness’

By September 30, 2011

As the days grow shorter the Folsom Symphony opens its eighth season with an evening of unusual works by three masters, dedicated to bringing “Light Out of the Darkness.”

Under the baton of Maestro Michael Neumann, the members of the symphony will present an evening of music that isn’t heard every day by classical masters whose names are well-recognized: Brahms, von Webber and Tchaikovsky.

Three pieces will be performed: the “Tragic Overture, Opus 81” (Brahms), the “Clarinet Concerto No. 1 in F minor, Op. 73” (von Webber) and the “Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36” (Tchaikovsky).

The “Tragic Overture, Opus 81” is an unusual piece in the body of work by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897). It is performed rarely. The two abrupt fortissimo chords that open the piece immediately told audiences in 1880 that this piece is an unusual one for Brahms. Usually, Brahms works open with a central theme. The “Tragic” does not. It is, rather, an exploration of the raw human emotions that can be evoked with music. Written as a companion piece to the “Academic Festival Overture,” which was a collection of cheerful student songs, Brahms himself wrote, “One laughs, the other cries.”

To put it another way, the “Tragic” takes audiences on a walk into the darkness. This music is intense, focused and moving.

Next on the evening’s program is a gem of a composition for clarinet: the “Clarinet Concerto No. 1 in F minor, Op. 73” by Carl Maria von Weber. It was written for clarinetist Heinrich Bärmann, who was much more famous than von Weber, in 1811.
Von Weber is referred to by some as the father of Romantic Period German opera. He came from a musical family. In fact, his first cousin Constanze Weber (1763-1842) was married to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791).

The “Clarinet Concerto” is a sweet work that leads us closer to the light.
Clarinetist Charles Messersmith headlines with the Folsom Symphony in the performance of this work. A native Californian, he performs regularly with the Folsom Symphony. He also performs in Charleston with local, national and internationally renowned chamber musicians as well as for Piccolo Spoleto programs in the spring. In the summers he performs in Virginia at the Wintergreen Music Festival in the Blue Ridge Mountains. He has been featured as soloist with the Charleston Symphony on numerous occasions, most recently performing the Copland Clarinet concerto and the Mozart Clarinet Concerto.

The concluding work of the evening, the “Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36” by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893). In a rather unusual step, the composer wrote a program about the music in this piece. Tchaikovsky wrote that the opening of the symphony was about fate.

The theme of the first movement, according to Tchaikovsky, is that “All life is an unbroken alternation of hard reality with swiftly passing dreams and visions of happiness ….” He went on, “No haven exists … Drift upon that sea until it engulfs and submerges you in its depths.”

One certainly can feel caught up in the maelstrom of emotions that the “Symphony No. 4” evokes. However, such a journey has a tendency to bring out the best in humanity also — the everlasting struggle for that which is good.

The “Symphony No. 4” has been described as “loud,” “savage” and “evocative.” It received harsh criticism when it debuted in 1878. However, it remains one of the most popular pieces in the repertoire today.

“Light Out of the Darkness” promises to be uncommon and excellent in every way — a program in keeping with the Folsom Symphony’s reputation as the premier orchestra of the Folsom Lake Region.

“Light Out of the Darkness” will be performed one evening only, on Saturday, Oct. 15, at 7:30 p.m. Three Stages (at the Folsom Lake College Performing Arts Complex) is located at 10 College Parkway — just off East Bidwell Street — in Folsom. Parking is free.

Single tickets are $25 to $55. Season tickets, as well as reduced cost tickets for students and seniors, are available. To purchase call (916) 357-6718 or visit

Send your event for consideration in Susan’s column to [email protected].

Susan Laird


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