Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

May 17, 2012

Holst’s The Planets

Springfield Symphony, Springfield, MA
May 15, 2012
by Shera Cohen

The Springfield Symphony Orchestra (SSO) ended its 2011/12 season on figurative and literal high notes. Not only was Holst’s “The Planets” (the primary focus of the concert) an exquisite piece which showed off the talents of these professional musicians, but the evening’s sky lit up with seven planets just as the audience left the hall. What a coincidence! Well, whatever these large red beams were, they certainly brought more cheers, in addition to the deserved and long standing ovation at the conclusion of “The Planets.”

SSO and its Music Director Kevin Rhodes, undoubtedly, can feel proud of their stirring, varied, and well-attended season. There were but a few seats empty in the second balcony on this night.

The familiar “Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” written by Paul Dukas, sweetly charmed the listeners, with many, assuredly, envisioning Mickey Mouse and the walking brooms. Composer William Bolcom (a well-known musician in New England) penned the next piece, “Prometheus, Choral Fantasy.” Huge credit goes to the skilled pianist Jeffrey Biegel and the Springfield Symphony Chorus, led by Nikki Stoia, whose combined efforts made this work accomplish its goals. Yet, the choice of “Prometheus” in this season finale might well have been rethought. While it is wonderful to present contemporary works, this was so dark, bordering on the unpleasant. However, that was its purpose.

“The Planets” encompassed the entire second part of the evening. Each of the seven sections depicted each of the planets. Alas, there was no Pluto due to the fact that it had not been discovered in 1916 (when the piece was composed), not to mention Pluto’s recent demotion in the planet stratosphere. The orchestra created each planet/section distinctly, with #4 Jupiter, the most expressive. Neptune capped off the series with a unique symphonic ending. The percussion team sat still as backstage voices hummed softly, lingering and touching the rafters throughout Symphony Hall.