Maestro Lucas Richman ended this season just as he did the last — with a bang and a big finish. This year it was Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4 instead of “The Pines of Rome” by Ottorino Resphighi.
Bruckner’s piece brought concertgoers to their feet Sunday afternoon cheering and shouting “bravo” for Richman and the Bangor Symphony Orchestra. Clocking in at more than an hour long, the Austrian composer starts his symphony off with driving strings and blasting horns. The composition only gets bigger and bolder in the three following movements.
Also called “Romantic,” the symphony is the equivalent of a marathon for the players and the conductor. Michael Steinberg, former classical music critic for The Boston Globe, called the finale of Bruckner’s Fourth “a massive mosaic” of sound. It also could be described as Bruckner’s “Heartbreak Hill,” the steep, half-mile incline at mile 20 of the Boston Marathon.
The orchestra and Richman clearly looked exhilarated and exhausted at the end of the finale. It was a rousing triumph, just as was “The Pines of Rome” last year. And like that final concert of the BSO’s 122nd season, the first half Sunday seemed lightweight by comparison.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote his 33rd symphony when he was just 23 years old. It has a chamber music quality to it that seemed ill-suited to the massive Collins Center and was overwhelmed by the Bruckner. It also was just 20 minutes long, which made the first half of the program seem short with no other music but Mozart planned.
It is unfortunate that the Bangor Symphony was not part of the consortium of organizations that commissioned Richman’s “Symphony: This Will Be Our Reply,” in honor of Leonard Bernstein’s 100th birthday. It was inspired by a speech Bernstein gave to the United Jewish Fund two days after John F. Kennedy was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963.
“This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before,” Bernstein said.
In March and April, Richman attended premieres of the work performed by the Oak Ridge [Tennessee] Civic Music Association, Bemidji [Minnesota] Symphony Orchestra and Los Angeles Jewish Symphony. It was recorded in Oak Ridge and posted on YouTube.
“This is, without doubt, Richman’s finest work to date,” Harold Duckett said in a review for knoxtntoday.com. The three movements — Intensity, Beauty and Devotion — perfectly portray Bernstein’s intent.
“Symphony: This Will Be Our Reply” would have made a much finer companion, musically and emotionally, to Bruckner’s colossus piece than Mozart’s cheery symphony. With the 2019-20 season set, symphony supporters and season-ticket holders should make sure Richman’s fine tribute to one of his mentors is on the schedule for 2020 or 2021.
For information on the Bangor Symphony Orchestra’s next season, call 207-942-5555 or visit bangorsymphony.org.