Composer James Lee III

Brahm’s Third

Roderick Cox, guest conductor
Anna Petrova, guest pianist

A review by Annette Skaggs

Entire contents are copyright © 2020 by Annette Skaggs. All rights reserved.

Our Louisville Orchestra has a way of throwing curveballs and surprises to its audience every once in a while, and Saturday evening’s performance was no exception. I appreciate when we can experience a World Premiere piece and composer James Lee III’s Emotive Transformations was a lovely beginning to the program.

The piece begins with short bursts from the winds that feel like a fanfare of sorts but quickly escalates into a sumptuous and ambitious composition. While there was only one movement, it sounded like it followed a common “rule of thumb” for many symphonies: Allegro, Adagio or Andante, and Finale. Towards the middle, there was a shrill tone emanating from the strings and while most times that sound would make me shudder, it was oddly fitting for the whole frame of the music which helped to stimulate the orchestra towards an up-tempo. In the end, there was a beautiful, melodic cadence that brought all themes to a comforting tone.

It was also a pleasant surprise to have Mr. Lee come out on stage and relish the well-deserved applause.

The next selection of the evening was the famous Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 16 by Edvard Grieg, his only fully written concerto. It is a stunning piece to be sure and is a study in piano virtuosity as well as one of classical music’s most-performed concerti. Luckily for us, we have phenomenal talent right in our backyard.

Guest pianist Anna Petrova is an Assistant Professor of Piano at the University of Louisville School of Music and performs extensively as a soloist and chamber musician working with two ensembles: the viola-piano Carr-Petrova Duo and the clarinet-viola-piano Iris Trio.

Ms. Petrova approached the Steinway piano with grace and purpose and as her fingers touched the ivories, I could hear the musical passion that would burst forth in the coming movements and all from memory.

Within the first movement, Allegro molto moderato, there is a roll of tympani that serves as the introduction to a stunning piano flourish. As the piano serves as the centerpiece of the movement a theme is quickly established but loses itself to a key changed second theme that is actually used more often throughout. The intermingling of these themes has provided some of the loveliest of piano motifs and at the end of the movement, Ms. Petrova had earned the applause that followed.

At the beginning of the Adagio, the second movement, there is a subtle and nuanced quiet in the piano that is a showstopper in its own right. The second theme is strewn throughout this section and leads directly into the third movement, Allegro moderato molto e marcato, which was absolutely eloquent in its presentation and passion, both from Ms. Petrova and the orchestra.

A well-deserved standing ovation burst forth and after a couple of curtain calls Ms. Petrova came and performed a little something extra that wasn’t listed in the program. Unfortunately, I do not know what the piece was, but it was a light and airy little ditty.

The evening ended with Johannes Brahms’ Symphony No. 3 in F Major, Op. 90. The Allegro con brio immediately introduces the theme of the Symphony. While there was a moment within the horns that needed a bit of fine-tuning, the movement was exciting. Directly moving into the Andante the melody is predominant throughout, beginning with the oboes and bassoons. As the second movement ends in a bit of a hurry, the third, Poco allegretto, is in a slower tempo. The lyrical fourth movement, Allegro-un poco sostenuto brings everything together.

I truly enjoyed the way that Maestro Cox directed our orchestra and he is certainly well versed in the varying musical styles, even conducting the Brahms without the use of the sheet music. I’d be happy to see him back on our stage again.

The evening had some little faults here and there, but it was a solid and entertaining night of beautiful music.

Bravi Tutti!

Brahm’s Third

February 1, 2020

Louisville Orchestra
Whitney Hall, Kentucky Center for the Arts
501 West Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202


Annette Skaggs is heavily involved as an Arts Advocate here in Louisville. She is a freelance professional opera singer who has performed throughout Europe and in St. Louis, Cincinnati, Boulder, Little Rock, Peoria, Chicago, New York and of course Louisville. Aside from her singing career, she has been a production assistant for Kentucky Opera, New York City Opera, and Northwestern University. Her knowledge and expertise have developed over the course of 25+ years’ experience in the classical arts.