As with Jedi, craftsmen or other mentor-apprentice traditions, the relationship between Romantic-era composers Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms and Antonin Dvorak is one of legend. Honoring these musical titans, the Astoria Symphony Orchestra presents some of their works in its spring concert this Saturday, March 12.
Silas Huff, maestro and founder, said he wanted a concert stemming from the concept of legacy. The more specific idea of performing Schumann, Brahms and Dvorak — “teachers and grandteachers,” he described them, referring to how Schumann taught Brahms and then Brahms mentored Dvorak — soon followed. The program will begin with Schumann’s rarely played “Overture to Julius Caesar,” which Huff had to track down. A publisher ended up having to reprint it entirely.
“Really, nobody plays this piece in concert,” Huff explained from his home in Virginia Beach. He added that Schumann is so known for his piano concerti and string music that the overture somehow fell out of popularity. “It’s kind of like a rare thing.”
Also included are Brahms’ vivacious “Hungarian Dances” and Dvorak’s “Slavonic Dances.” The concert takes place in the newly renovated Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church.
Huff, who established the symphony orchestra after moving to Ditmars in 2002, acknowledged that diverse Astorians may be especially excited for music stemming from Eastern Europe and the Balkans. But, that’s not specifically why he selected the works. The symphony orchestra’s concert this time of year usually coincides with another of Huff’s ventures: weeklong conductor workshops with the International Conducting Institute, which Huff co-founded in 2010. New York City is one of the program’s sites. Students from all over the world hone skills such as baton technique, score study and rehearsal methods. At the workshop’s end, participants take to the conductor’s stand with the Astoria Symphony Orchestra. Saturday’s program includes a pre-talk with Huff, where he explains what the audience can expect. But this chat is all about highlighting the conductor, who Huff acknowledged may still puzzle concertgoers.