Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

October 27, 2014

Kings, Angels & Lovers

Springfield Symphony Orchestra, Springfield, MA
October 25, 2014
by Michael J. Moran

While no kings are depicted on this program, its title accurately suggests the outsize emotional power of all four works. But its theme might better be described by the old bridal adage “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.”

Maestro Kevin Rhodes began the concert with “something borrowed”: the chorale “It Is Enough” from Bach’s Cantata BWV 60, which was quoted in the next work on the program, Alban Berg’s Violin Concerto. The three-minute chorale was radiantly sung by 24 male and female members of the Springfield Symphony Chorus, beautifully accompanied by a reduced SSO, a performance they repeated after a 10-minute mini-lecture by the maestro that was vintage Rhodes, informative and entertaining, as he illustrated at the piano how the chorale fit into the concerto.

Caroline Goulding
The audience seemed to appreciate this helpful introduction to Berg’s final masterpiece, whose dissonant surrealism can still be a challenge to modern ears. But not to the fingers of soloist Caroline Goulding, whose technical virtuosity and interpretive maturity were remarkable for her age (twenty-two). Dedicated “to the memory of an angel” (Manon Gropius, a close friend of Berg who died of polio at age 18 in 1935), the concerto has a solemn and lyrical beauty that the SSO players captured with delicacy and finesse.

Intermission was followed by something completely different from Berg’s “something blue”: two symphonic poems written by Tchaikovsky but inspired by Shakespeare: “The Tempest” (something new) and “Romeo and Juliet” (something old). If the haunting opening and close, soaring love themes, and thrilling climaxes of “The Tempest” could impress Nadezhda von Meck enough to become Tchaikovsky’s patroness, it seems odd that the work is so rarely played today. A more inspired account than this one by Rhodes and the SSO would be hard to imagine.

And how better to follow it than with an equally riveting performance of the more familiar “Romeo and Juliet"? Ideally paced to maximize the contrast between the violent music of the warring Montagues and Capulets and the famously ravishing love theme of their young progeny, it brought a dramatic evening to a fittingly moving end.