The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra opened its 2021-2022 season with two concerts, one program for both on October 29 and 30.

Suspend is a 20-minute fantasy for piano and orchestra that pianist Emanuel Ax commissioned from composer Andrew Norman. Intended to sound like an improvisation Suspend asks of its audience to temporarily set aside all expectations of how concert music should sound.

Melody, rhythm, and contrapuntal complexity are set aside, suspended –as the title of the work implies – their place taken by seemingly random strains of sound, first from the piano, later from the orchestra. The effect is calming and mysterious. Pianist Drew Petersen effectively took the piano part.

The F-A-E Sonata was a collaborative effort conceived by Robert Schumann as homage to the violinist Joseph Joachim. Johannes Brahms and Albert Dietrich each took one movement, with Schumann taking the other two. Brahms used the notes F, A, and E, a musical cryptogram based on the German motto Frei Aber Einsam (Free but alone) to construct the movement assigned to him. CSO’s Stefani Matsuo played with verve, with Drew Petersen at the piano providing energetic support, both earning warm applause from the audience.

Brahms Symphony No. 3 in F majorbears the opus number ninety, which indicates that it is a mature work that comes years after several of the composer’s great works, notably the violin concerto, the two piano concertos, the symphonies nos. 1 and 2, and the Academic Overture.

The Symphony No. 3 in F majoris divided into four movements: an opening Allegro, a second Andante, a third Allegretto in C minor, and a closing Allegro that goes back and forth between major and minor in tonality and, by extension in mood. What opened as restless in tone, transitions into a temporarily calm second movement that gives preference to the woodwinds as if to convey a sense of tranquility after the stormy motions of the opening Allegro. But then and unexpectedly Brahms thrusts the music into the C minor sadness of the third movement. The final movement takes a surprisingly tempestuous path that eventually leads to an unexpected quiet ending.

Warmly welcomed by a capacity audience Louis Langrée and the rank and file of the CINCINNATI SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA excelled throughout this opening concert in music making of the highest order auguring a season yet to come filled with great music.

Rafael de Acha     ALL ABOUT THE ARTS