Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

April 12, 2010

Jeffrey Biegel, Pianist

Springfield Symphony Orchestra
April 4, 2010
by T.C.Larsen

The Springfield Symphony Orchestra, Maestro Kevin Rhodes, and pianist Jeffrey Biegel surely delivered the goods in what Rhodes described as "an unabashedly romantic program" full of "emotions powerful and gentle, violent and reflective." Rossini's Semiramide Overture began the onslaught with pianissimo horns, winds, and strings pizzicato frequently interrupted by stormy, operatic gestures from the full orchestra - playful Rossini rendered at full gallop.

Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 survived a controversial debut to become a pillar of the repertoire. The staggering technical proficiency required of the SSO and pianist Jeffrey Biegel was evident throughout the piece. More impressive was their ability to transcend technique by drawing our ears to relevant musical elements out of a multitude of sonic activity. The always exuberant Rhodes leaped off the podium at the conclusion of the piece to deliver an athletic, victorious thump to Biegel's back, who responded by playing an unscheduled, delightful bit of Schumann.

Franck's Symphony in D minor was the program's biggest surprise, especially to those more familiar with his somber sacred works. A restless, roiling, monster of a piece drenched in the sonorities of a phalanx of brass, it is made intelligible by clearly defined themes and symphonic structures. Franck and the SSO provided an appropriate finale to an evening set afire by musical pyrotechnics.

The SSO deserves the admiration of its constituency. Financial support is also evident in the announcement that the popular but endangered Brown Bag lunch time concerts would be underwritten by community donations. At the close of his pre-concert comments, Maestro Rhodes invited the audience to enjoy an evening of "beautiful tunes." This amiable understatement can only be truly appreciated by the knowledge that it takes thousands of hours of diligence for any one musician to gain the skill necessary to play such music. Musical lives and culture begin with children playing and singing in homes and schools. Financial support of music education for children is of paramount importance to the artistic health of all levels of our society during these difficult times - and at all times.