Youngstown Symphony Orchestra: 80 years old and still going strong

Gabe Gott

Credit: Jason Hall

The Youngstown Symphony Orchestra opened its 80th anniversary season Oct. 22.

The orchestra, under the direction of Isaiah Jackson, performs at the Edward W. Powers Auditorium in downtown Youngstown.

The orchestra performed Brahms’ “Second Symphony,” and, along with guest pianist Olga Kern, Rachmaninoff’s “Third Piano Concerto.”

Kern, who was born in Russia to a family of musicians, began studying piano at the age of five. She also won the first Rachmaninoff Piano Competition at the age of 17. She won the gold medal at the 11th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in 2001 by performing Rachmaninoff’s “Third Piano Concerto.”

The next performance will take place Nov. 19 and will feature guest trumpeter George Vosburgh. With Vosburgh, the orchestra will perform Hummel’s “Trumpet Concerto.” The orchestra will also perform Ravel’s “Le tombeau De Couperin,” Haydn’s “Toy Symphony” and Mendelssohn’s “Symphony No. 4” (“Italian”).

Vosburgh is the principle trumpet for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. He is a celebrated soloist, lecturer and is internationally acclaimed for his virtuosity on trumpet. He is a recipient of the Gold Record Award for his work with Mannheim Steamroller and has received awards from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

The orchestra is worth seeing, with or without the soloists. Though the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra is smaller than the Cleveland Orchestra, it sounds just as good.

Its performance of Brahms’ “Second Symphony” was riveting and kept my attention for the whole 45 minutes. The Brahms piece changes in dynamics a lot; it goes from very quiet to very loud and all levels in between. The melody is traded from the flutes and piccolos to the French horns and to the violins and back. Even casual fans of the orchestra will enjoy this piece.

The orchestra’s performance of Rachmaninoff’s “Third Piano Concerto” was also very entertaining. It has a dark and dramatic melody, with a definite Russian feel to it, similar to that of Tchaikovsky. The piano carries the melody throughout, and the orchestra accompanies it. Other instruments carry the melody a little bit, such as the French horn and the cellos, but it is mostly the piano. People who enjoy good piano playing will enjoy this piece.

The Edward W. Powers Auditorium has interesting architecture. It is reminiscent of the Victorian Era, with gold, green and faded red colors. Fancy lamps line the walls and some fancy lights hang from the ceiling. The room is acoustically balanced for a good sound wherever a person might sit. It is reminiscent of Severance Hall in Cleveland, only a little smaller.

Anyone who has ever been to see the Cleveland Orchestra would enjoy seeing the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra and should go and see their next performance. After all, it takes the same length of time to drive to Youngstown from here as it does to drive to Cleveland.

Contact ALL correspondent Gabe Gott at [email protected].