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Soulful Expressions

Thursday, September 14, 2023 by Mike Levine in Program highlights

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The Midcoast Symphony Orchestra (MSO) will kick off its 2023-2024 concert season with 2 performances on Saturday, October 28th at 7pm, and on Sunday, October 29th at 2:30pm. These concerts begin a year-long celebration of the 20th season of MSO Music Director Rohan Smith.

The program begins with “Aspiration,” the fourth movement from William Grant Still’s Symphony No. 1, also titled “Afro-American,” which was the first symphony by an African-American composer to be performed by a full orchestra. Still was the most immediately successful African American classical composer in the first half of the 20th century and is considered by many to be the dean of African American composers.

The second piece on the program, Beethoven’s Piano Concerto Number 3, features guest artist Anastasia Antonacos on piano. This work premiered in 1803 and was still unfinished at the time, meaning that Beethoven improvised a large section of the cadenza during the performance. The piece signified a shift from a style emulating Mozart to the emergence of Beethoven’s own voice as a composer.

The concerts conclude with a performance of Shostakovich’s landmark Symphony Number 5, which was composed as a reflection to criticism of his artistic work by Soviet authorities. According to Smith, the symphony hits the listeners “like a coded message of endurance of suffering in a country under invasion” one that is “exceptionally appropriate to be played in the midst of this horrible war in Ukraine.” The 45-minute masterpiece promises to wrap listeners in a complex tapestry of emotions as it unfolds.

Read for concert details. And to hear samples of the music we will perform, see this issue of our online newsletter .


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