Nix the cannons. That's the word from the Toledo Symphony, which teams up this weekend with the Glassmen Drum and Bugle Corps to present a pair of concerts featuring Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture," certainly the noisiest piece in the history of classical music.
Usually this concert closer is consigned to outdoors performances, and for good reason. The Boston Pops discharges howitzers for its annual Fourth of July performances along the Charles River. I once participated in a rural Wisconsin performance that featured a platoon of farmers blasting away with 12-gauge shotguns.
Instead of cannons, conductor Chelsea Tipton II will content himself with lots of percussion and a phalanx of Glassmen. That should prove more than enough in the Peristyle at the Toledo Museum of Art.
The concerts open in a quieter, if hardly less audacious way with Richard Strauss' rambling and virtuosic 1895 tone poem "Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks." The composer offers the story of the legendary 14th-century German mischief maker who manages to insult just about everyone before authorities catch up and hang him. It's a dreary sounding ending, but not one to be taken seriously. The world needs pranksters and Till's spirit will not be vanquished, so say the music's last bars anyway.
Also featured is violinist Karen Gomyo in a performance of Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev's D major violin concerto (1917). Back in 2004 a 22-year-old Gomyo delivered a rambling performance of the Sibelius concerto. Prokofiev will inspire a more focused reading, presumably.
Now for a warning about this weekend's grand finale.
The "1812" begins innocently enough, with long and not-so-memorable melodies that flow like broad rivers. After an emotional buildup, the dam finally breaks and armies of sound trudge into battle. Done well, the results can be inspiring. In any case, they are sure to be deafening. Consider bringing earplugs.
Violinist Karen Gomyo joins conductor Chelsea Tipton II and the Toledo Symphony in a program of music by Richard Strauss, Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky at 8 p.m. tomorrow and Saturday at the Toledo Museum of Art Peristyle. Tickets range from $21 to $48. Information: (419) 246-8000 or (800) 348-1253.
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