Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

October 5, 2009

Opening Night

Springfield Symphony, Springfield, MA
Saturday, October 3, 2009
by Debra Tinkham

Despite a difficult year, Maestro Kevin Rhodes trumped off the 66th opening night red carpet gala with the orchestra playing, and the audience singing, The Star Spangled Banner. Already impressed by the energy emanating from Rhodes, the orchestra and the audience were ready for a dynamic evening. Of course, the lovely Concertmaster, Masako Yanagita, did her usual graceful entrance and continuation of tuning the orchestra.

Richard Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries, Franz Liszt's Mephisto Waltz No. 1, and Liszt's A Faust Symphony were on the menu. Rhodes took a variation on his usual "Saturday Night Live" extravaganza. In Rhodes words, he "…decided to do something completely different than ever before in the history of the symphony." Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries, a very familiar melody, featured lots of brass, with wonderful dynamics. His piano version of Mephisto's Waltz was, to say the least, incredible. The man expects perfection and does nothing less.

Rhodes ricocheted back and forth from Mephisto Waltz No. 1 to A Faust Symphony. While explaining the major, minor and diminished chords to the audience, (which probably most did not understand) Rhodes stated that Liszt was, "A rock star before we had rock music." He is dedicated, a man with high energy, engaged and entertained. This is Rhodes 9th season with the SSO, although there are rumors that he may have a new employers -- the Hartford Symphony Orchestra. That would be a terrible loss!

His narration, explanation and display of virtuosity on the piano, led the audience to a better understanding that Faust's sad and depressing display of Mephistopheles' love of Gretchen and, in the end, Mephistopheles' ultimate redemption and, in Rhodes words, "carried off to heaven in a Hollywood style."

Rhodes never quits, never runs out of energy. We just hope he won't run out of desire to remain in Springfield.