Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

November 7, 2010

Masterworks Series: Program No. 2

Hartford Symphony Orchestra
The Bushnell, Hartford, CT
November 2, 2010
by Terry Larsen

The Hartford Symphony Orchestra provided yet another moment of great artistic beauty for its dedicated audience under the baton of one more candidate for leadership of the ensemble. The orchestra's ability to bring technical and emotive meaning to every piece of literature programmed while complying to the wide range of intent and gesture posed by the many conductors who have occupied the podium over the past two seasons is nothing but remarkable.  Bravo, HSO! Moreover, the beauty, comfort, and acoustic ambience of the Belding Theater provides added motivation to attend concerts at the Bushnell.

Marcelo Lehninger led three Romantic pieces inspired by revered stories from the literary domain. In Fantasy-Overture Romeo and Juliet, Tchiakovsky achieves a wonderful synthesis of strict adherence to sonata allegro form and the progression of dramatic events from the story of the ill-fated lovers. Lehninger's conducting relied on an extremely disciplined baton technique. Each moment of every phrase was defined, specific, and secure without resulting in a rigid, inflexible sound - the musical nuances between pulses were still very evident providing the narrative of each work with a beautiful vehicle of sonority.

Soprano Christiana Pier joined the HSO for Ravel's diaphanous composition Scheherazade, Three Poems for Mezzo-Soprano and Orchestra. Her voice was beautifully balanced throughout the range and of a pleasing timbre, although it may have been dynamically covered by the orchestra in the lowest range. Once again, Lehninger and the HSO paid attention to every metrical detail, allowing the full palate of orchestral and vocal timbre to emerge from the texture.

This dedication to use of the full range of orchestral timbre is obvious in Scheherazade, Symphonic Suite, Op. 35 by the master of orchestration, Rimsky-Korsakov, a student of Tchiakovsky and a profound influence on Ravel.  He harnessed his dedication to the exploration of harmony, structure, and timbre to serve a symphonic telling of the exotic adventures of the iconic Sinbad, bringing each of the stories to life in the mind's eye and ear.

This reviewer relishes each evening spent with this orchestra in this beautiful space.