WSO season opens with ‘The 3 Giants’ of classical music

In his explanation of the season opener for the Williamsport Symphony Orchestra, which follows the theme of “Tales,” Maestro Gerardo Edelstein fittingly began with the dramatic story behind Beethoven’s “Eroica.” Beethoven had dedicated the piece to Napoleon Bonaparte, but by the time he had finished composing the work Bonaparte had declared himself emperor of France and Beethoven had lost his esteem for the leader. He ripped out the first page of the symphony, which contained the dedication, and renamed it “Eroica,” or “the heroic.”

“Eroica” is one of three pieces that make up the season opener, titled “The 3 Giants,” which will begin at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 15 at the Community Arts Center.

“We have the perfect trio: Bach, Beethoven and Brahms,” Edelstein said of the program, adding that the group of men is konwn as the first Viennese school of classical music. “They represent the fathers of classical music.”

“The 3 Giants” can serve as the ideal introduction to classical music for those taking a first-time trip to the symphony.

“People who’ve never come to the symphony before will find it very accessible and enjoyable,” Edelstein said, noting that the pieces chosen will be recognizable to many.

The program will begin with Bach’s “Air” from Orchestral Suite No. 3, which Edelstein said is “one of the most popular melodies ever written.” The piece was arranged for strings by the late conductor Leopold Stokowski (known in mainstream society as the conductor who made an appearance in “Fantasia”).

Guest artist Enrico Elisi, a piano soloist who also is an associate professor at the University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music, will follow up with Brahms’ First Piano Concerto. This piece started out as a symphony but became a concerto instead. Edelstein said the concerto starts off with a dramatic central movement and “finishes triumphantly and optimistically.”

The WSO will close the program with Beethoven’s “Eroica.” Edelstein said the piece was revolutionary for its time, a “turning point in the development of orchestral music.” While Beethoven’s first two symphonies were heavily influenced by Mozart and Haydn, Edelstein said, in the third “we see for the first time Beethoven’s own style.” The piece also bucked the tradition of length; at the time, a symphony typically ran 30 minutes or less. “Eroica” is more than 50 minutes long.

“It’s almost like two symphonies in one,” Edelstein said.

Edelstein is unable to choose a favorite of the three composers, he said, because he becomes absorbed in whichever piece of work he is focusing on – this allows him to approach each piece as though it is the best piece, and to give it his full attention and respect.

“My favorite composer is the one I am conducting at the moment,” he said.

To purchase tickest to “The 3 Giants,” call the CAC box office at 326-2424 or 1-800-432-9382, or visit For more information on the WSO, call 322-0227 or visit