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Time for a "Makeover", Says Kentucky Symphony

It’s the start of a new year – a perfect time for a makeover.

Kentucky Symphony Orchestra joins the trend Jan. 14 with Extreme Makeover: Classical Music Edition (Symphonic Facelifts) featuring the three Bs — Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms – as “renovated” by 20th century giants Elgar, Mahler, and Schoenberg.

KSO Music Director and founder James Cassidy started, he says, by asking himself “Where haven’t we gone in a while?” The KSO last performed Beethoven in 2008, Bach in 2010 in Devou Park and Brahms, “15 years ago?”

Cassidy happily previews the “makeover” program featuring more intimate work reinterpreted for full orchestra. “We have musicians who are hungry to play a big program and audiences who are hungry to hear it.”

The concert opens with J.S. Bach’s organ work Fantasia and Fugue in C minor. “It gets a full orchestral re-build by Mr. Pomp and Circumstance himself — Edward Elgar.

“Elgar and Richard Strauss, who were friends, had agreed to each orchestrate a section of the work — Strauss, the Fantasia, and Elgar, the Fugue. Elgar made good on the Fugue, but Strauss failed to live up to his end, so Elgar wound up transcribing the entire piece.

“It’s so grand and gorgeous.”

Cassidy describes Gustav Mahler’s work on Ludwig Van Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony as “simple cosmetic and landscape alterations. Mahler doubles the woodwinds, adds some dynamic range, removes some repeats and freshens the work with late 19th century sensibilities.”

The program closes, says Cassidy, with the 45-minute, “colossal up-sizing of Johannes Brahms’ Piano Quartet in G minor by fellow Viennese Arnold Schoenberg.

“He took it from miniature to epic,” Cassidy adds. “Schoenberg’s reason for transforming a quartet into a full blown orchestral work was fairly straightforward — he liked the piece and thought that all the parts could be better realized in a large-scale format.”

“There’s so much color,” Cassidy notes, as the quartet is transformed with full brass, percussion (including xylophone), auxiliary woodwinds and full string section.

It’s not a traditional program, Cassidy observes, and that’s a KSO signature. “If everybody else is doing it, you can bet we don’t.”

Extreme Makeover: Classical Music Edition, 7:30 p.m. Jan. 14.  Kentucky Symphony Orchestra, Greaves Hall, Fine Arts Center, Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights. Tickets $19, $27 and $35, children and students ages 6-18 half-price. 859-431-6216. www.kyso.org and at the door (if available).

Written by Jackie Demaline, RCN Arts