David Parilla was masterful in the famous trombone solo.
The feud between supporters of Wagner and Brahms that raged across late 19th-century Vienna does not need a retrospective in the 21st century.
Cooper's contrasting of the Prelude to Act III of Wagner's "Tristan and Isolde" and Brahms' "Tragic Overture" might have passed for innovative programming in 1920 but seems dated today.
I can't complain about the way the pieces were played, though. The Wagner had richness in the strings, darkness from the low ranges and a fragile elegance from the first and second violins in the yearning passage that climbs into the fading musical twilight.
R. Stutzman's English horn solo, played from a side balcony, haunted with its flowing line interrupted by a couple of separated notes.
Brahms was very good in things that let him play against the traditions he was so determined to extend.
So the outer movements of his symphonies, which hold to Beethovenian ideals, are inspired.
The inner movements, when he went his own way, are often pure genius.
The "Tragic Overture" is as inspired as any of his middle movement work, taking unexpected turns and reveling in shifting textures.
Cooper led a masterful performance, drawing cohesive playing from the strings, which the winds braced with warm passagework and graceful melodies. The horns and brass were pertinently colorful.
The concert repeats Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Clay Center.