In Columbia, a musical voyage down the Rhine

In Columbia, a musical voyage down the Rhine
Jonathan Carney, concert master of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, will be guest performer at a concert by the Columbia Orchestra sampling German composers. (Photo by Chris Lee)

The Columbia Orchestra gets its 37th season off to an ambitious start with major works by two 19th-century German composers on Saturday, Oct. 11, at 7:30 p.m., at the Jim Rouse Theatre at Wilde Lake.

Although Robert Schumann's Symphony No. 3 "Rhenish" and Johannes Brahms' Violin Concerto in D major are important pieces in the standard repertory, the upcoming concert marks the first time that the Columbia Orchestra has done them under the baton of music director Jason Love.


Besides simply wanting to do these pieces, Love said another reason to pair them on the same program is that "the Schumann and the Brahms work together beautifully. Schumann was a big influence on Brahms, and wrote an article praising Brahms' music."

Schumann (1810-1856) composed this symphony after being inspired by a trip he and his wife, Clara, made to the Rhineland. A music journey of sorts, it also reflects a journey in music history terms. Schumann's score exemplifies how he was influenced by composers including Beethoven, Schubert, Berlioz and Mendelssohn. Schumann's "Rhenish" symphony had its premiere in Dusseldorf in 1851, with Schumann himself conducting it.

Brahms (1833-1897) was only 20 years old when he met Schumann and his wife, who became dear friends. On a professional level, a real career boost for the young composer was provided when Schumann wrote a journal article in which he stated that Brahms was "destined to give ideal expression to the times."

Brahms' Violin Concerto received its premiere performance in Leipzig in 1878. It was dedicated to a famous violinist of that era, Joseph Joachim, who was the featured soloist. Beethoven's Violin Concerto was performed on that same concert program, which was conducted by Brahms. The often-cited stylistic links between Beethoven and Brahms certainly must have been on full display on that long-ago night.

For the Columbia Orchestra's performance of Brahms' Violin Concerto, the soloist will be Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Concertmaster Jonathan Carney.

He has appeared with the Columbia Orchestra before, and so he and Jason Love should have a natural rapport on stage.

"I have opinions about the piece, and I'm very interested in the interpretive insight that this particular soloist brings to it," Love said.

The Schumann and Brahms compositions anchor the program, but it opens with Mary Howe's "Stars," a 1927 piece that Love described as "a four-minute mood painting" evoking the night sky.

Howe (1882-1964) was an American composer and pianist who lived in Washington, D.C. She studied at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore and also with legendary piano teacher Nadia Boulanger in Paris.

"She was famous in her own day, and so it's nice to highlight her again," Love said.

Stylistically, he added, Howe has "a sense of lyricism and atmosphere in a highly coloristic piece that reflects impressionism."

The Columbia Orchestra performs on Saturday, Oct. 11, at 7:30 p.m., at the Jim Rouse Theatre at Wilde Lake High School, 5460 Trumpeter Road, in Columbia. Tickets are $25 and $20, $21 and $16 for seniors, $12 and $10 for students.

Bill Scanlan Murphy, who teaches at Howard Community College, gives a free lecture at 6:30 p.m. Call 410-465-8777 or go to