Pianist returns to Toledo for Brahms concerts

Kirill Gerstein performs with the Toledo Symphony at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday in the Peristyle.
Kirill Gerstein performs with the Toledo Symphony at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday in the Peristyle.

For its sixth Classics Series concerts, the Toledo Symphony has offered an unusual opportunity for local audiences by planning two distinct programs Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. in the Peristyle. The idea is that intrepid listeners will attend both, the better to soak up a little more about Johannes Brahms.

Principal conductor Stefan Sanderling calls it the Brahms Project. He believes it illuminates the composer’s career through some of his most popular works, especially his two piano concertos.

With Gilmore Prize winner Kirill Gerstein back in town to perhaps shed new light on these beloved standards, the symphony will play Concerto No. 1 on Friday and No. 2 on Saturday.

“Hearing both concertos presents a very complete portrait of Brahms,” Gerstein said in an interview this week. “The first concerto is a youthful, hyper-romantic, and dramatic work; the second is still dramatic but with a certain classical perfection to its form.”

To further enhance the development the two piano pieces reveal in the composer’s life, Sanderling also planned different openers for each night: Variations on a Theme by Haydn (Saint Anthony Variations) on Friday, and Academic Festival Overture for Saturday.

The only piece in common for both concerts will be Schubert’s Symphony No. 8 (Unfinished).

Gerstein is a hot property these days. After winning the 2010 Gilmore Artist Award, a unique and lucrative prize given every four years to a pianist of promise, the Russian-born prodigy, who had developed both classical and jazz chops, has been busy.

He commissioned new boundary-crossing works and has performed with nearly every major orchestra in the United States and abroad. He’ll be featured soloist at this year’s Gilmore Award ceremonies in Kalamazoo, Mich., where he’ll perform with singer Storm Large.

Gerstein has a new CD coming out with works by Mussorgsky and Schumann.

But no matter how far his musical trajectory takes him, Gerstein comes back to Toledo with pleasure.

“I enjoy coming to Toledo,” said Gerstein. “I like the orchestra, the hall, and the museum.”

The symphony has offered a reduced rate of $25 per ticket for the second concert — on whichever night that occurs — in the Brahms Project. Those with tickets bought at regular price (single or subscription) can purchase the additional ticket through the Toledo Symphony box office, 419-246-8000, or

● After two nights of big Brahms and Schubert performances, the Toledo Symphony will go to pasture, so to speak, on Sunday with the third concert in its Simple Gifts series in the Convent Chapel of the Sisters of St. Francis, 200 St. Francis Ave., Tiffin.

The music will start at 2 p.m. A self-guided walk through the property and straw-bale open house will follow at 3 p.m.

The symphony’s Woodwind Quintet will perform a new composition by University of Toledo faculty composer Lee Heritage, To the West Wind, plus an arrangement of the traditional Shaker tune, Simple Gifts, by symphony French hornist Alan Taplin, for woodwind quintet.

There will be Irving Fine’s Partita for Wind Quintet, and Roaring Fork, a work by Cleveland composer Eric Ewazen.

Simple Gifts is a collaboration between the orchestra and the Black Swamp Nature Conservancy seeking ways to bring together nature and music in northwest Ohio.

Admission to this program is free, but tickets must be reserved through the symphony, 419-246-8000 or, or from Sarah Brokamp at 419-872-5236 or

● Musica Antigua de Toledo will go for Baroque in its next series concert at 3:30 p.m. Sunday in the University of Toledo Center for Performing Arts Recital Hall. Members play instruments from — or modeled after — Renaissance and later musical periods, use authentic performance styles, and dress in fashions of the past.

Founder-director Alice Neff Petersen says, “We’ll explore music of the 1600s to 1750 in Italy and Germany, two rich sources of Baroque styles.”

Tickets at the door are $2-$10.

● The Sylvania Community Orchestra plans to play music by Russian and Czech composers during its Winter Concert at 4 p.m. Sunday in Olivet Lutheran Church, 5840 Monroe St., Sylvania. Conductor Kathleen Hafner will be on the podium. The program also includes a horn soloist and some dance music.

Sponsored by the Sylvania Arts Commission, the concert is free.

● The Cincinnati Boychoir will sing in concert at 3 p.m. Sunday in St. Mary Church, 38 West League St., Norwalk, Ohio. Presented by the Towne & Country Players Inc., of Norwalk, the concert will introduce this internationally renowned group to north-central Ohio.

Led by Christopher Eanes, the choir has performed with Cincinnati’s Opera and Symphony, the Metropolitan Festival Choir in Detroit, and the Vienna Boys Choir, among others.

Tickets for this performance are $6-$12 at the door.

● Ditch the paczkis before Ash Wednesday next week; the Toledo Jazz Orchestra has a far livelier — and maybe healthier — idea: a Lundi Gras fund-raiser Monday at Treo Restaurant, 5703 Main St., Sylvania. Fun and food will be on hand from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., with Dixieland jazz and all the traditional trimmings.

Tickets for dinner and entertainment are $35 each, with Toledo Jazz Orchestra members and board as celebrity waiters.

Reservations are due today at 419-297-5971.

● The Toledo School for the Arts will showcase its dance company, Limitless, in a concert at 7 p.m. March 6 in the Valentine Theatre. Created and led by Alison Reny, the student company will explore concepts and perceptions of time through movement and music, with modern, jazz, and tap choreography styles.

Tickets are $6-$18 at the door.

● The Northwest Ohio Chapter of the American Harp Society presents harpist Alexandra Mullins in a free recital at 7 p.m. March 7 in the UT Center for Performing Arts Recital Hall.

Mullins, 19, a sophomore at Indiana University, is a recent prizewinner in the USA International Harp Competition and has a large array of other performance awards, including the Lyon and Healy competition. She has performed throughout the United States and Europe in many venues, including Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center.

On the program will be Paul Hindemith’s Sonata for Harp, Serrenata Espanola by Malats, and a harp arrangement of Tchaikovsky's Fantasy on Eugene Onegin.

Admission to the recital is free.

● The North Coast Concert Band has canceled its planned performance Sunday at Clyde High School. Conductor Bill Woycitzky said weather days and school closings prevented three rehearsals leading to the concert. This is the first such cancellation in the band’s 31-year history.

The band plans a 3 p.m. concert May 4 at Ehrnsthausen Performing Arts Center, Norwalk, and looks forward to its busy summer performance season.

Send News of Music items to at least two weeks ahead of the event.