As music director Joel Levine commented before the orchestra's performance of Brahms' “Symphony No. 1 in C Minor,” the composer's score offers few suggestions about the best way to bring this music to light. Notes, tempo markings and dynamics are present, but little else.
It helped that conductor and orchestra had encountered this work twice before in its history. The work's impressive opening was full of breadth and sinew, two necessary elements in making a performance successful. Levine's careful balancing also revealed the movement's glorious organ sonorities.
The second movement was noted for its delightful exchanges between strings and winds, along with many attractive nuances that made this performance stand out. The third movement's lilting figures were attractively caught.
With the shadow of Beethoven looming large over Brahms' writing of his first symphony, any concerns of self-doubt were swept away in the finale with Brahms' main melody and its wonderful harmonization.
Levine established an inner tension that both united the orchestral sections and kept the symphony's forward motion always on target. The much anticipated brass chorale was spectacularly realized and capped off what was a truly compelling performance.
— Rick Rogers