‘Striking Surprises’ is MSO’s late winter delight

Photo of Bud Bertold from above him behind the tympani.

‘Striking Surprises’ is MSO’s late winter delight
Bud Berthold in a rare timpani concerto, plus Haydn’s Surprise Symphony

Jackson, Mississippi — Mississippi Symphony Orchestra’s “Striking Surprises” concert, 7:30 p.m. February 24 at St. James’ Episcopal Church, warms to classical music with a hint of the unexpected, in a concert that showcases MSO Principal Timpanist Bud Berthold and delivers Haydn’s best-known symphony.

Concert opener Entr’acte for Strings by contemporary Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Caroline Shaw continues this season’s “Fresh Voices” theme. Her evocative work riffs on the classical form and takes it forward, with captivated listeners relishing the ride. “It’s a lovely piece for the strings,” said MSO Maestro Crafton Beck. “It really sets up the rest of the program beautifully.”

Soloist Berthold, MSO’s principal timpanist for decades, takes the spotlight in Jiri Družecký’s Concerto for Six Timpani, a classical-era composition pioneering for its percussion focus and charming in its buoyant appeal.

The timpani does not often get a shot at a featured solo, particularly in a chamber concert. “That is pretty unique,” MSO President and Executive Director Jenny Mann said. Družecký’s concerto centers the pitched percussion instrument out front, maximizing its melodic potential and expanding its usual baseline and punctuation role with the orchestra.

“It’s a rare opportunity to get an intimate look at the instrument, the musician, how it’s played and the scope of what the whole percussion family itself can do,” Mann said. “It can be a remarkably sensitive and beautiful instrument.” Here, it is positively joyful.

Joseph Haydn’s famous and lively Symphony No. 94 in G Major keeps the whimsy coming. Nicknamed Surprise Symphony for its loud chord amid gentler music, this popular work keeps listeners on their toes. As one story goes, Haydn’s mischievous impulse as a conductor, to shake awake a dozing patron, gets credit for the jolt.

“I hope people laugh out loud at this concert,” Mann said, from new listeners who will be surprised, to Haydn fans who anticipate the thrill. “This will be a very fun evening.”

General admission tickets to the February 24 “Striking Surprises” concert, are $25 for adults and $5 for students, kindergarten through college (with valid student ID). Visit msorchestra.com for advance tickets and information. Tickets will be on sale at the door if capacity permits and seating is available.

The season is supported in part by funding from the Mississippi Arts Commission, a state agency, and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.

What: Striking Surprises, MSO Chamber Series concert
Who: Mississippi Symphony Orchestra
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, February 24, 2024
Where: St. James’ Episcopal Church, 3921 Oakridge Dr., Jackson, MS


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