Andrew Grams guest conducts “The Planets” with the Omaha Symphony

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May 11th, 2018

GRAMS: “This program has a lot of moving parts in it, different things to it. You know, rustic Bach at the beginning with the motet that goes through the fugues, it’s good contrapuntal stuff that gets everybody’s brain ready for letting the Berg wash over them and be able to see that musical picture. Then after intermission, the Holst is just sit back and let the orchestra completely overwhelm your senses with loudness, with softness, with aggression, with care, with love and frolic.”
Guest conductor Andrew Grams joins the Omaha Symphony for a second time this weekend for a deep and dynamic program of Gustav Holst’s The Planets, Alban Berg’s Violin Concerto and selections from Bach.
Grams is from Baltimore and said he discovered his love of classical music through public radio.
GRAMS: “When I was growing up outside of Baltimore, we had at that time three full time classical radio stations, so if you didn’t like what was coming out of 91.5 you could flip over 90.9 or 103.5, so this type of music was always on in the house. I think what sealed the deal was getting the third grade in the public school system. I don’t even remember asking but my mom has a theory that I saw a group of my peers leave the class and get to go play strings. So, I probably thoguth that so I could get out of math. Ever since I started playing the violin, that is when I knew I was going to be a musician in this type of music.”
For the first, time Grams will be conducting The Planets by Holst, a piece that has been a part of his life since he was a kid.
GRAMS: “You know, Mars, that starts off this seven movement suite is definitely Star Wars-y and has a little “Empire Strikes Back” character to it. I would be very surprised if the great John Williams and other movie composers have not completely ripped off that. But there are so many sections of Mars that I really appreciate. Not just the ceaseless March to War that the rhythm suggests, but also the way that the big melody starts off unison and everyone is playing the same note and then it goes off into another note that breaks off into these parallel fifths that has a certain ancient sound to it so you can really imagine the roman army marching to war. It has a very game of thrones feel to it. Then that is countered, right after that you do on to Venus, the goddess of love. If your ears had fingers you would feel the soft tapestries of the boudoir of Venus and all of that goes through there. But, as you go through all of the different movements, everyone is very, very different from one another. There are so many little touches in there that to me are absolute genius on the part of Holst. On the Uranus one, it builds up to a big peak and what does he does he choose to but have the organ play a glissando on the keys and it creates a sound that you hear it and go, “Wait, what was that?”, and everything disappears and you are left with this hanging chord, and then just time, that’s it. So, it’s everything!”
Another piece they’ll be performing this weekend is Berg’s Violin Concerto. Grams started out as a violinist and once was a member with the New York Ballet Orchestra, and described in depth, with hand gestures his interpretation of the piece.
GRAMS: “I like to say that it’s very delicate. What I mean by that is in order for the whole musical picture to be appreciated, every little thing has to fit in just the right place. If you can think about a mosaic or a stain-glassed window, if every part isn’t quite there then a lot of times the whole picture can shatter or you can’t see what all is there. So, it’s a very delicate piece of music that requires a great deal of sensitivity and precision, not just by the soloist or by the orchestra, because what Berg is doing is creating a mosaic, a tapestry, where you can have one long singing melody, but it’s being passed almost note for note by so many diff instrumentalists that everybody needs to pass the ball seamlessly.”
Guest conductor Andrew Grams conducts the Omaha symphony is a Masterworks Concerts tonight and tomorrow evening at the Holland Performing Arts Center. The Planets by Holst, Berg’s Violin Concerto, featuring concert master Susanna. Performances begin at 7:30pm and you can get your tickets and more information by logging on to omahasymphony.org or by ticket Omaha at 402.345.0606.

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