Savannah Philharmonic ends the season with Grieg and Mahler masterpieces
Savannah Morning News / DO
by Linda Sickler
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What a way to end the season.
The Savannah Philharmonic Orchestra will conclude its fifth anniversary season April 26 with Grieg’s “Piano Concerto in A” and Mahler’s “Symphony No. 5.”
“Nothing else has that drama,” says Peter Shannon, the orchestra’s artistic director and conductor. “We have beautiful concerts for next season, but nothing like this. It’s difficult to find music that makes a statement like Mahler’s Fifth. The Fifth is absolutely legendary. It’s a major feat to pull off,” Shannon says. “This is a wonderful chance for people to be drawn off to another world.”
A large performance requires a lot of participation. “It is the largest orchestra we’ve had to date and at the end of the fifth season,” Shannon says. “Mahler is known as the giant of symphonic repertoire. This symphony goes from one emotional extreme to another in 30 seconds. Each emotion is amplified to the extreme. It is exhausting to conduct, as each notes oozes emotion,” he says. “The orchestra has been preparing for over a month before even arriving in Savannah.”
“You can’t play the Mahler Symphony No. 5 without completely committing to it,” Shannon says. “Pair the Mahler with the Grieg, one of the most perfect, exquisite piano concerti ever composed — an epic evening of music,” he says.
Concert pianist Quynh Shannon, Shannon’s wife, will perform the Mahler piece.
“It’s fun for me getting to do this with my wife,” he says. “It’s something people are going to enjoy. It’s an incredibly beautiful piece and she plays incredibly well.”
Quynh is returning to the stage after a short hiatus. “Peter told me it would be the Grieg piano concerto,” she says. “It’s absolutely magnificent, every single detail and note. Everybody knows the melody. I knew the first movement already. However, as I learned the second movement, it’s so natural,” Quynh says. “You can hear the church bells and the sounds in the village, then you get the raging storm in the third movement.”
Mahler himself was impressed with his work.
“After writing the Fifth Symphony, Mahler said it should be the beginning of his real compositions,” Shannon says. “It goes from the depth of depression, solitude and pain to the soaring of spirituality. “The climax in the second movement repeated in the last movement is just otherworldly. That’s a very, very famous piece of music.
“It’s the largest piece of music the Savannah Philharmonic has brought to the stage yet,” he says. “It’s the highlight of everything we’ve done in five years, the culmination of five years’ work.”
The audience will recognize the music when they hear it, Shannon says.
“The energy that you have to have to get through the piece is legendary among conductors of orchestras,” he says. “But it is absolutely thrilling to listen to. This is the concert to come to.”