Has it really been twelve seasons? The Knoxville Symphony under maestro Lucas Richman has been going on fast forward for many years now. It has found its way into the ears and hearts of people from many new realms locally and regionally, while still holding the interest of long-time supporters. Keeping an orchestra of our size afloat in post-9/11 America has proven treacherous for many sister organizations, but Lucas has worked in concert with at least three different Executive Directors to keep our ship aright, and for the last seven years, in the black. The Music and Wellness Program, the Very Young People's Concerts (featuring THE ONE-AND-ONLY PICARDY PENGUIN!!!) the Q Series, Story Time Concerts and other initiatives have all given the KSO a lot of cred. Both downtown Knoxville and the KSO have seen wholesale changes for the better in the last ten years or so that have created an even more liveable and vibrant city. Knoxville is no longer a stopover on the way to Asheville, Gatlinburg, or Chattanooga, as it was when I moved here in '86; it is a destination.
So with all the new points on the compass that the orchestra touches now, it sometimes gets overlooked how the orchestra has also improved its overall sound, through both the crafting of that sound, and the attracting- and retaining- of quality players. The music that Lucas has chosen for his farewell concert spotlights the versatility that the orchestra has come into. Three of the greatest symphonists ( Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, and Mahler) and the greatest orchestrator (Ravel) will be uniquely brought together, this Thursday and Friday at 7:30 at the Tennessee Theatre.
Beethoven's overture to Goethe's play Egmont has three parts: a slow introduction which morphs into a tension-filled Allegro in f minor. Release comes with the Allegro con brio coda in f major, in some of Beethoven's most triumphant, pedal-to-the-metal writing. The stage is then set for concertmaster Gabe Lefkowitz's solo appearance on the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto. This work is famous for fooling listeners into applauding at the end of the first movement., which truly sounds like the end of something, but hang on... there are two more movements. The second movement Canzonetta is serene and contemplative, but is interrupted by the Allegro vivacissimo finale bursting through the door. I guarantee some audience members will literally jump out of their seats at the sound of the finale's downbeat.
The presence of the Egmont Overture and the Tchaikovsky concerto might make you think this will be a typical overture/concerto/symphony program, but that mold is long broke. On the second half of the program, contrasting moods continue to be order of the day, with the Adagio from Mahler's Symphony No. 10 (the only movement of that work completed by the composer), and Ravel's tone poem La Valse will be paired in a sort of Viennese synopsis. Ravel's work comments on the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire by deconstructing that empire's dance-of-choice, the Waltz, whereas the Mahler is a snapshot of the transition from the First to the Second Viennese School of composition.