The Williamsport Symphony Orchestra will end its 2011-12 season with its "Heroes and Love" concert, which will be performed at 7:30 p.m. May 15 at the Community Arts Center, 220 W. Fourth St.
Conductor Gerardo Edelstein said that the season has been "absolutely great."
"We keep increasing the number of patrons," he said. "More people are coming and getting more excited, loving what we do."
Winning over the WSO faithful took less time than the charismatic conductor originally thought it would.
"I took this position only over a year ago," he said. "And if you remember from the first year, things were difficult. There was a period of turmoil. But now ... I feel at home and comfortable everywhere I go. The audience and I have a very special bond. Things are going great."
The excitement will continue with this concert, which will feature a couple of firsts: "Symphony No. 1" by Gustav Mahler and "Piano Concerto No. 1" by Frederic Chopin.
Mahler, who was born in Kalischt, Bohemia (now Kaliste, Czech Republic), was only 28 when he composed his first symphony.
"It's remarkable that he was so young," Edelstein said. "From the famous composers, you never remember the first symphony they wrote or you don't regard it as one of their best."
When it comes to Beethoven, music fans usually mention Symphony No. 7, 9, 5 or 3, according to Edelstein, not Symphony No. 1. And it's a similar situation with Mozart.
"Who knows 'Symphony No. 1' by Mozart?" Edelstein said. "Everyone talks about his last symphonies ... with Mahler, it's different."
The symphony was inspired by a poem by Jean Paul, who was a German romantic writer in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Despite this fact, Mahler almost immediately tried to distance the symphony from the original work.
"It's not that he wrote a programmatic piece, telling a story like Jean Paul does," Edelstein said. "He was inspired by that. When the piece was premiered, he decided not to use any kind of program [related to Paul's writing]."
Mahler's piece serves as the "heroic" part of the "Heroes and Love" theme. It's epic in scope, with every part correlating to a mood or a scene.
"The first movement is like a quiet sunrise," Edelstein said. "The second is sacred folk music - peasants dancing and drinking in a bar. The third becomes a funeral march to the tune of 'frere jacques' ... the last movement - it's pretty much from Hell to paradise. [It] starts stormy and dramatic and envelopes into something heroic and triumphant."
The "Love" part of the concert will be handled by everyone's favorite romantic pianist, Chopin, who was born in Zelazowa Wola, a village in the Duchy of Warsaw.
"Chopin was one of the first really romantic composers of the 19th century, where the melody was taking over any kind of counterpoint or other types of music used a lot at the end of the classical period," Edelstein said. "It's romantic music that has more feelings. It's less abstract and more expressive."
Whereas Mahler's Symphony is very much an orchestral piece - it may feature as many as 100 performers - Chopin's Concerto puts the piano front-and-center.
"Chopin is the composer for piano music," Edelstein said. "He dedicated his life to writing music mostly for piano - he was an incredible pianist."
According to the conductor, the WSO will be lucky to have a great pianist on hand to perform the great work.
"We are having a fabulous pianist playing with us - Roberto Plano," he said. "He was the Cleveland Piano Competition Winner in 2001."
The pianist lives in Italy and is coming to perform specifically for the WSO.
"People should not miss him," Edelstein said. "I don't know when is the next time we will get to hear a pianist of this calibur in town."
For tickets, visit www.caclive.com or call 326-2424.
For more information about the WSO, visit www.williamsportsymphony.org.