San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Symphony Season Opens Joyously

The National Symphony Orchestra joyously opened its 2007 season Friday night at the National Theater in downtown San José. For his fourth opening with the orchestra,Maestro Chosei Komatsu selected a festive repertoire, introducing contemporary Japanese composer Akira Senju’s exuberant Fanfare, complemented by the light pieces of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto and Brahms’ Second Symphony.

Indeed, the symphony has reason to celebrate. This coming season, Komatsu says, is “a conductor’s dream.” The orchestra is the strongest he has known it to be, and he chose the repertoire accordingly. Each of this season’s 12 concerts will vary significantly, as he selected the content by asking himself, “What would I feel like listening to next?”

The season will also span several centuries of composers, represent many different countries, highlight Costa Rican composers and feature well-known guest artists. “This, the fourth season, will be the best, I think,” Komatsu told The Tico Times, “because of the quality and variety of the pieces, and of the substance of the international guest artists.”

The orchestra played out Senju’s Fanfare to all its celebratory exuberance. Senju is something of a pop star in Japan, and it was a real treat to hear a bit of his work. The drama of his Fanfare lent a fantastic quality to the evening, heralding the coming season.

Both Beethoven’s Violin Concerto and Brahms’ Second Symphony are light and expansive, and though Beethoven’s at times drops to melancholy, it jumps back up again; Brahms is pure joy.

The orchestra tempered and then expanded the joyousness of Fanfare with the Violin Concerto. It is soft and inviting, employing the strings as a percussive motif throughout. It builds upon itself, increasing its intensity as if testing how far it could push its boundaries, before softening to let you catch up to it.

The orchestra played the melody with a cohesion that easily supported the violin solo, played by U.S. guest artist Kurt Nikkanen. The violin part heightens the intensity

of the piece, often reaching the higher registers of the violin while the melody remains, for the most part, mellow and smooth, punctuated by percussive plucking of the strings.

Brahms called his Second Symphony “cheerful and delightful,” and the orchestra’s rendering of it filled the theater with a sweet, springtime quality. The audience was visibly affected by this; in the nearly full theater many sat with their eyes closed, faces uplifted and smiling.

The light, playful piece culminates with luminous energy, and began the 2007 season on a shining note.

Concerts are scheduled every few weeks through November, at 8 p.m. Friday and 10:30 a.m. Sunday; watch the Calendar pages for upcoming dates. Tickets are available online at and at the National Theater box office, and range from ¢1,000-8,000 (about $2-15).

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