Q. The Great Symphony is great in many ways, including length. There are so many moments of lovely melody. It seems like this piece presents a challenge in that there is so much to manage — just as stage or movie directors have to work to make some plays seem like one dramatic work, rather than a collection of exciting scenes. How do you get all those lovely parts to cohere together?
A. In this case, Schubert does it for us. This huge symphony is so perfectly constructed, perfectly balanced — and everything is spelled out with absolute clarity. It’s still challenging, and exciting to execute exactly what he asks us to do — and, even after all these years, moments of surprise and wonder. Yes, it’s full of great melodies, but also intense emotion and inspiring energy. Notice how many of the impactful statements are given to the trombones — and how, by contrast, the trumpets have their old-fashioned role of joining the timpani in edging loud sections.
Q. Do you have a favorite recording of this work? If so, what did it teach you about this work?
A. Not really. This score speaks for itself to such a degree that creating an interpretation is less of an issue, but I enjoy traveling to different times and moods — so I’m most fascinated by the oldest recordings available. They’re often refreshingly faster than today’s performances. Maybe since they hadn’t yet become as reverential as some of our times overly “serious” approaches. Yes, this is a beautiful — and serious — symphony, but it’s also, fun, light, and exuberant.
Q. Mozart’s piano concertos can be light and sprightly, but this one is dark, brooding, intense and stormy — maybe just plain exciting. Why did you choose to pair it with Schubert’s Great Symphony?
A. For those reasons. Contrasting jolly C major with brooding C minor. Another reason to program it this season is its connection to Beethoven’s C minor concerto that we performed in November. Beethoven was visibly excited when hearing Mozart’s No. 24 and it clearly inspired his No.3.
Q. Please tell us about the soloist, Xiaohui Yang. And how did you two agree on this particular concerto?
A. Well, I did choose the piece and subsequently looked for a performer. Xiaohui is a winner of the prestigious Naumburg Competition, and I stay in touch with the nice people running that organization. They recommended Yang to me, I studied her performances online and decided she was the one to deliver this beautiful and moving concerto.
Q. Copland’s “An Outdoor Overture” is on the program. Some Galveston music fans are wondering whether our orchestra has a thing for Copland’s portraits, fanfares and other short works. Are these short pieces becoming a signature?
A. Thank you for making me aware that there seems to be a pattern. I hadn’t thought of that, but will now start thinking about a more major Copland work for future seasons.