Composer/conductor Matthias Pintscher arrived at The Granada Theatre on an asteroid of his own making. That is, he opened the evening’s program with towards Osiris: Study for Orchestra, a composition he said was inspired by Gustav Holst’s The Planets, but on a smaller scale. It’s a spiky Sputnik of approximately seven minutes in duration, and it gave the Academy Festival Orchestra, particularly the percussion and brass, plenty to do. It also suggested a useful way to listen to the evening’s entire program, which was as an exercise in creating, or recreating, some sort of music of the spheres, with the idea that in the musical system, all the really big planets revolve around Vienna.
The second piece, the Sinfonietta, Op. 25 of Alexander von Zemlinsky, was a loving but tight-lipped tribute to Vienna as a lost paradise by an edgy, and not uncritical, exile. The evening’s main event was a hypothetical fantasy on Viennese musical history by Arnold Schoenberg, who arranged the Piano Quartet in G Minor, Op. 25 of Johannes Brahms to answer the question, What would have happened if Brahms had written symphonies right away, rather than waiting until he was in his forties to attempt his first one? The resulting work remains true to the structure and spirit of the original, while employing techniques and instruments that Brahms would not have considered using, such as the xylophone. With its bold finale “in the gypsy style,” the piece makes a great case for the emergence of planet Brahms from the shadow of his self-imposed Beethoven eclipse.