Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

December 4, 2009

Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 5, et al

Hartford Symphony Orchestra
The Bushnell, Hartford, CT
by Terry Larsen

When the leader of an ensemble is in complete control it might be said that he had them eating out of his hand. Regarding the Hartford Symphony's concert, it is more fitting to say that the orchestra and guest conductor Andrew Grams were feeding off each other. Each of Grams' evocative gestures was rewarded by an artful response as three courses of delicious Romantic era music were served to an appreciative audience.

Smetana's programmatic piece The Molda" was beautifully performed - each gesture of sound evoking every eddy, ripple, and relentless current of the river Moldau as it transformed from stream to river while passing through the Czech heartland. The players and conductor were in perfect accord, dedicated to achieving every nuance possible. This synchronicity was evident throughout the entire concert.

Sibelius' Violin Concerto in D minor comprised a contrasting second course of angularity served cold…a work no less passionate than The Moldau, but spiced with the half light of an arctic summer evening. Solo violinist Leonid Sigal was undaunted by the difficult and idiosyncratic solo line, playing with a generous warmth of timber and lyrical fluidity. Maestro Grams successfully maintained a delicate balance between Sigal's bravura performance and the often extroverted, savory underpinnings of the orchestral texture.

The final course, Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5, requires a large appetite for civil but passionate interaction and the full sonority of all sections of the orchestra; as well as for contrasts in texture, mood, tempo; and compelling melodic contours. The orchestra gave its all with no coaxing necessary as Grams illustrated each passing moment and the spaces between. Solos in the wind section in the second movement were beautifully rendered.

Dessert for the feast unexpectedly appeared in the form of a grin and thumbs up from Maestro Gram to enthusiastic members of the audience who had inappropriately applauded at a grand pause before the final maestoso section of the symphony. This welcome gesture of goodwill reassured all that a concert really is about living in the moment for its own sake. The feast was ended. Those in attendance were well served.