Music of Steel & Majesty with the Oregon Symphony

Program Listing

Saturday, April 29, 2023, 7:30 PM
Sunday, April 30, 2023, 2 PM
Monday, May 1, 2023, 7:30 PM

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David Danzmayr, Conductor
Andy Akiho, Steel Pans

Andy Akiho

Beneath Lighted Coffers
Andy Akiho

Franz Schubert

Symphony No. 9 in C Major, ‘The Great’
Andante - Allegro, ma non troppo
Andante con moto
Scherzo: Allegro vivace
Allegro vivace


This performance is being recorded for broadcast on All Classical Portland.

The broadcast will air on June 1, 2023 on 89.9 FM in Portland, and worldwide at


Conducted one hour before each performance, the Concert Conversation will feature Andy Akiho and host Robert McBride. Visit to watch the video on demand.


Program Notes

Beneath Lighted Coffers
Symphony No. 9 in C Major, ‘The Great’


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Andy Akiho
b. 1979

Beneath Lighted Coffers

Work composed: 2014–15, on a commission from the National Symphony Orchestra
First Oregon Symphony performance
Instrumentation: solo steel pan, piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 2 trombones, bass trombone, tuba, timpani, chimes, 4 glass bottles, glockenspiel, gran cassa, snare drum, kick drum, 2 metal pipes, vibraphone, 2 wood blocks, harp, and strings
Estimated duration: 28 minutes

Oregon Symphony Composer-in-Residence and Creative Alliance member Andy Akiho is an audience favorite. His distinctive voice fuses the eclectic sound worlds of his percussion experiences: high school marching bands, elite-level drum corps, West African marimba ensembles, Trinidadian steel pan music, and the contemporary music scene of New York City.

Akiho composed Beneath Lighted Coffers for one of his performance idols, the Trinidadian steel pan virtuoso Liam Teague. Its five movements were inspired by the Pantheon in Rome, a structure Andy came to know intimately after being awarded the Rome Prize in Composition by the American Academy. In 2015, Akiho lived in Rome and walked to the Pantheon almost daily, visiting at all hours. “I’ve never been in such awe of an architectural feat,” he enthuses. “The energy this building has, there’s nothing like it.”

Akiho included the following notes in the score for Beneath Lighted Coffers:

“Inspired by the Pantheon’s portico, the entryway that one sees walking up a once narrow path to the building. The portico is inviting and unassuming, and the grandeur of the dome cannot be seen from afar, creating a somewhat unexpected experience in the rotunda. What captivates me most about the Greek-inspired entrance are the enormous, monolithic, Corinthian granite columns that were shipped from Egypt.”

  1. Twenty-Eight

    “The architecture mirrors the 140 trapezoidal coffers, or sunken panels, geometrically arranged in five concentric circles of twenty-eight in the Pantheon’s concrete dome. The coffers create an optical illusion that draws the observer towards the dome’s center, and they look different depending on the light of day streaming in through the oculus. Because the coffers are sunken voids within the concrete, they are also a critical part of the architectural structure of the large domed ceiling and evoke history, time, lightness, and possibility. Musically, I derived the melodic material of this movement from a 28-note palindromic scale that spans the entire range of the orchestra, and the structure of the movement is built in five groups of 140 beats, often sub-divided into five groups of twenty-eight.”

  2. Oculus

    “The many different skies that appear through the oculus continually change the way the Pantheon is experienced. They inspired this central movement, whose music comes from a more personal and intuitive place, mimicking the unpredictable clouds and light variances above and through the exposed sky in the oculus. The oculus also acts as an architectural keystone, although it is a purely empty space that has held the entire unreinforced concrete dome together for nearly two thousand years. Like the oculus, this middle movement is central to the structure of the entire composition.”

  3. Corelli

    “The brief fourth movement drew inspiration from the Pantheon’s marbled floor patterns and the music of the Italian Baroque composer and violinist Arcangelo Corelli (1653–1713), who is buried in the Pantheon. I have always been a fan of Corelli’s chamber music, and I pay homage to him by alluding to the ‘Grave’ movement from his Concerto Grosso No. 3. The original lays out a melodic line of 45 notes for the violin, which I associated with the 45 circles of the Pantheon’s patterned marbled floor, imagining rain falling from the oculus above, shifting these notes and timbres around before disappearing in the drainage system beneath the floor.”

  4. Permanence

    “Writers and historians often use adjectives like ‘permanence’ and ‘progeny’ to describe the Pantheon because it is the best-preserved and most influential building from ancient Rome: it has miraculously endured numerous years, storms, fires, wars, governments, barbarians, and popes. The Pantheon brings together the past and the future, and I am very grateful to have had an opportunity to experience the history of the building and its architectural greatness while writing this piece in the present day.”


Franz Schubert

Symphony No. 9 in C major, “The Great,” D. 944

Work composed: Schubert began working on his final symphony in 1825 and completed it in 1828
Most recent Oregon Symphony performance: Guest conductor Andrés Orozco-Estrada led the Oregon Symphony on October 13-14, 2013
Instrumentation: 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, timpani, and strings.
Estimated duration: 50 minutes

“All must recognize that it reveals to us something more than beautiful song, mere joy and sorrow, such as music has always expressed in a hundred ways; it leads us into regions which – to our best recollection – we had never before explored.”

—Robert Schumann on Franz Schubert’s Ninth Symphony

In 1826, while Franz Schubert composed songs, piano sonatas and string quartets, he also worked on what became his last symphony. Schubert received no commission from an orchestra or patron to write this large work, which suggests no external impetus for its composition.

Schubert’s admiration for Ludwig von Beethoven’s symphonies is well documented, however, and Schubert’s earlier symphonies demonstrate his eagerness to contribute to the genre. A letter Schubert wrote in 1824 discusses his plan to “to pave my way towards a grand symphony” through the composition of chamber works.

In October 1826, Schubert sent a partially completed score of the symphony to Vienna’s Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde (Society for Friends of Music). In his accompanying letter to the Society, Schubert wrote, “Convinced of the Austrian Musical Society’s noble intention to support an artistic endeavor as far as possible, I venture, as a native artist, to dedicate to them this, my Symphony, and to commend it most politely to their protection.” The Society paid Schubert for receipt of the manuscript but, atypically, did not guarantee a public performance. One month after Schubert’s death, the Gesellschaft played a memorial concert in Schubert’s honor, choosing his other C major symphony, nicknamed “The Little,” as its centerpiece. Why not perform Schubert’s last symphony at his memorial? Possibly “The Great” was too challenging for the Gesellschaft orchestra to mount on short notice, or perhaps its forward-looking innovations were not to the Society’s taste.

Individual movements of “The Great” were performed in Vienna in the 1830s, but it might have languished in obscurity far longer had Robert Schumann not discovered the unpublished manuscript among Schubert’s papers. Felix Mendelssohn subsequently conducted “The Great” in Leipzig in 1839, but he could not convince other ensembles to program it.

One famous story details Mendelssohn’s efforts with a London orchestra. During a rehearsal of the finale, the musicians burst into derisive laughter at an “endless” series of triplets and refused to continue; “The Great” was not performed. Today, Schubert’s final symphony is frequently programmed around the globe; along with the “Unfinished,” it is Schubert’s most popular symphony.

The horns begin with a simple statement that recurs throughout the Allegro and alternates with countermelodies for strings, oboes, and bassoons. This abundance of melodies might overwhelm some composers, but Schubert handles all of his material with dexterity. In the Andante, Schubert recalls the folk-Gypsy oboe/ bassoon melody of the first movement with a plaintive tune for solo oboe. As in the Allegro, Schubert offers one lovely melody after another, albeit in a more pensive, wistful mood. The Scherzo takes its cue directly from Beethoven: its seven minutes are fueled by a constant driving pulse, now insistent, now more relaxed, but always propelling the music forward. The ten- minute Finale contains more energy than the three previous movements combined. After Schubert’s failure to complete the B minor Symphony (“The Unfinished”), he doubted his ability to compose another, much less a symphony of this scope. We can hear Schubert’s triumphant celebration throughout this movement, overflowing with a cascade of beguiling melodies.


© Elizabeth Schwartz