Modesto Symphony Orchestra brings Beethoven and fresh pieces to next show

11/07/2013 12:00 AM

11/05/2013 2:02 PM

Expect a night filled with the familiar and the fresh from the Modesto Symphony Orchestra.

The orchestra will take on the popular Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, known worldwide for its unmistakeable opening notes, in its next performance, as well as the world première of a concerto by its own John Hillebrandt. The concerts are today and Saturday at the Gallo Center for the Arts.

While the “Da-da-da-dum” of Beethoven’s 5th is instantly recognizable, the evening also should bring new adventures in sound from Hillebrandt.

The 17-year veteran of the orchestra, and its principal pianist, first wrote his “Piano Concerto No. 1” when he was a graduate student at the University of Michigan in 1990. But then he put it away for two decades. He spent 15 years with the music department at California State University, Stanislaus. After retiring two years ago, Hillebrandt decided it was time to dust off his old piece and make it new again.

“Once I retired, I had more time to get back to this kind of work,” Hillebrandt said. “So I showed it to (MSO Music Director) David Lockington and he was very excited about it. We agreed to do it and I revised and reorchestrated it to bring it up to date. So in the last year, I’ve been furiously at work revising it from A to Z.”

This won’t be the first of Hillebrandt’s work Modesto audiences have heard. He has had other original pieces performed by the orchestra, including two in the Christmas program last year.

He said taking a fresh look at his work from 20 years ago gave him new perspective. “It’s been long enough that I can almost look at it objectively from a more mature and objective point of view,” he said. “It had a lot of exciting ideas. But with 20 years of experience behind me, I was able to make some important changes. It’s almost like a brand new piece now. I think we’re all going to have fun with it.”

The program also includes Rossini’s Overture to Tancredi. Lockington will conduct a pre-concert conversation about the evening’s program for audience members starting at 7 p.m.

Over last weekend, Lockington made his debut as music director for the Pasadena Symphony Orchestra. He was appointed to the position in March. Lockington has been the Modesto orchestra’s music director since 2007 and simultaneously served in the same position for the Grand Rapids Symphony. He announced that he will step down from the helm of the Michigan orchestra, which he has led since 1999, at the end of its next season.

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