Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

September 29, 2008

Springfield Symphony Orchestra

Bernstein, Gershwin, Prokofiev
Springfield Symphony Hall
September 27, 2008
By Donna Bailey-Thompson

From the beginning – our "National Anthem" – through Bernstein, Gershwin, and Prokofiev, the Springfield Symphony Orchestra under the energetic direction of Kevin Rhodes never sounded better. It’s an open secret, indeed one to brag about, that Rhodes has continuously raised the bar and the musicians continue to meet the challenge. Rhodes’ enthusiasm energizes musicians and audiences alike. The payoff is a maturing orchestral cohesiveness of which Springfield is rightly proud.

Maybe every concert should open with Leonard Bernstein’s "Overture to Candide". Such a happy score! Boisterous! Bam! Boom! Bam! The orchestra went a mile a minute, lifting spirits as well as memories of the youthful Bernstein on Omnibus, sharing his love and knowledge of music with uncounted millions.

Those who attended the pre-concert talk had already met guest soloist Norman Krieger and learned that when as a boy of seven he attended a Hollywood Bowl concert, music became his passion. Now a seasoned performer, his technique is embedded deep within his being. Perhaps he’s honored as a musician’s musician. Such seemed to be true during George Gershwin’s "Concerto in F for Piano and Orchestra": eschewing flamboyant pyrotechnics at the piano, he became an integral part of the orchestra.. From its beginning, the Concerto demanded attention. Kettle drums, jazzy rhythm. Flights of fancy morphed into the blues of a wailing trumpet; there was a conversation with the piano. Then a new rhythm made dancing feet itch. The climax was a booming end.

The opening movement of Prokofiev’s "Symphony No. 5 in B Flat Major" was busy yet languid, ideal music for black swans, heavy with percussion, ponderous, an appropriate complement for the ongoing financial deliberations in Washington. With the second movement, it was as if a system was purged and a race was on. All the strings were plucked simultaneously. There was a brass frenzy. An abrupt ending stunned the audience. Within the third, the mood became lugubrious, writhing pain, churning souls. Then with the final movement, storm clouds dissipated and wholesomeness was resurrected. The thunderous finale released an outpouring of applause. The celebration of the SSO’s 65th year and the 2008-2009 season were launched.