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Opening night for the Firelands Symphony Orchestra

Tom Jackson • Mar 23, 2010 at 6:27 PM

Some years ago, it became cool for rock music album recordings to include an extra "hidden track," an additional song that wasn't officially listed on the credits.

Saturday's Firelands Symphony Orchestra concert at the Sandusky State Theatre (and, I assume, the next day's concert at the Ernsthausen Community Center in Norwalk) contained a hidden track, too. Soloist Jason Vieaux had taken everyone to school on Rodrigo's guitar concerto, "Concierto de Aranjuez," teaching us what a really, really good acoustic guitar player sounds like.

Then Vieaux began playing an unannounced solo piece, and conductor Carl Topilow walked offstage. I assumed that was just to allow the spotlight to shine on Vieaux, but after a few moments, Topilow walked back to the stage playing a clarinet, and the piece (the famous Brazilian song "Tico Tico") ended as a duet.

The concert also include the "Academic Festival Overture" of Brahms, but for me the high point was a dramatic performance of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. I thought the lyrical second movement sounded a trifle hurried, but the dynamic rendering of the other movements was very exciting, a good example of how electric live Beethoven can be.

It's often a little scary going to a classical music concert, because you see so many people with white or grey hair. You wonder what's going to happen to the classical music industry in this country in 10 to 20 years. (Greg Sandow blogs a lot about this, but famous critic Alex Ross seems to be more optimistic.)

The symphony gave away free tickets to students, but only a handful showed up. When I was in college, I knew other students who listened to jazz and classical music, and I didn't go to an Ivy League school or hang out with music majors.

Was everyone watching the football game instead? Playing the concert the night of the USC-Ohio State game was a bold programming move, but I'll bet the word of mouth from the people who did show up was pretty good.

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