Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

October 6, 2010

Red Carpet Gala

Springfield Symphony Orchestra
Symphony Hall, Springfield
October 2, 2010
by Terry Larsen

SSO opened its 67th season with a flourish of television lights, an honor guard, a handsomely attired audience…oh, and a red carpet at the entrance. Maestro Rhodes, who began his10th season as Music Director and Conductor, and the orchestra received a rousing standing ovation in tribute to their work together over the past decade. Rhodes stated that the reason for "the nine happiest years of my life" to the musicians arrayed on stage. The evening ended with a reception in the Mahogany Room.

Glorious music erupted in the middle of these festivities, beginning with Henri Duparc's tender Poème nocturne, Aux Étoiles (to the stars), featuring a lovely solo played by principal cellist Jonathon Lewis. Although the Duparc is a surprising choice to open such an event, it provided dreamy ballast to Samuel Barber's pyrotechnic Piano Concerto, Op. 38, which pianist Christopher Atzinger played with precision and gusto. The orchestration for the Concerto prominently featured the wind section and extreme use of dissonance without succumbing to the serial techniques so prominent in the works of many composers in the mid-20th century. This dissonance and the varied timbre of the winds could be rendered in an angular manner, and the ensemble provided a facile performance fully complementary to Atzinger's playing, all of which served the lyric nature typical of Barber's works. It must be said, however, that the timbre of the keyboard seemed somewhat muffled from this reviewer's seat under the left balcony of the orchestra.

Rachmaninoff's Symphony No. 2 in E minor, Op. 27 was a vast sea of surging string sonorities rising from the depths of the double basses through the range to the crests of the higher strings, all crowned with a resplendent aurora of gleaming brass. The hint of a folk song and a military gallop might be discerned in the second and fourth movements. The monumental third movement rendered anything other than cantabile strings, rampant above the vast floor of pedal tones in the basses, as mere flotsam and jetsam. This awesome, epic piece was beautifully served by this fine orchestra and its dynamic leader.