The CCM Philharmonia opened the 2017-2018 Concert Season at the University of Cincinnati’s College Conservatory of Music with the Overture to Mozart’s The Magic Flute. The capacity audience at the recently-renovated and acoustically friendly Patricia Corbett Theatre greeted Mark Gibson’s impassioned conducting of what he called, in his own words, “the National Anthem of Classical Music” with an enthusiastic response.

Gibson’s crystal clear take on Mozart’s overture was evident from the iconic opening triple chords that begin the piece to the vertiginously agile allegro that ends it. The Maestro brought out the best of his sizeable ensemble, eliciting utter clarity in the back and forth dialogue between the higher and lower strings while keeping the enthusiastic brass section of the youthful Philharmonic Orchestra from drowning out the rest of the ensemble. It was interesting to note that Gibson likes to separate his first violins to his left and the violas and second violins to his right, an arrangement that allowed for the inner voices to have much presence throughout the evening.

The orchestra quickly rearranged its personnel in order to play Brahms’ Symphony no. 3 in F. The composer spoke of the recurring F-A (or Ab)-E theme as his coded “Frei aber einsam” (Free but alone) message. Gibson described it as a Doubt melodic motif which hesitates about whether to be tonally consonant or chromatically free.

Beyond that, in his introductory words to the Brahms symphony, Gibson attributed to the Brahms a questioning quality, which in the company of the joyful Mozart overture and the second half’s austerely assertive Mendelssohn Reformation Symphony formed a musical triumvirate that expressed deeply religious feelings that ranged from questioning one’s faith to firmly believing in it. It was a fascinating program which the CCM student orchestra played with the flair and technique of a professional ensemble.

Up next the Philharmonia tackles an all-Italian line up of Respighi, Berlioz and the first act of Puccini’s Tosca. Pencil in the date of Wednesday October 4th at 8:00 p.m. and secure your tickets from the CCM box office, for the performance will fill up just like tonight’s did.

Rafael de Acha http://www.Rafael’ All About the Arts