Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

October 6, 2015

SSO: Opening Night Gala 2015

Springfield Symphony Orchestra, Springfield, MA
October 3, 2015
by Michael J. Moran

To open the SSO’s 72nd season and his own 15th season as music director, Kevin Rhodes presented several examples of what he calls in his “Rhodes’ Reflections” column in the program book “our most difficult repertoire right out of the gate” by three “composers using folk music elements.”

After a rousing “Star-Spangled Banner” to launch the new season, Dvorak’s “Carnival Overture” began the concert on a festive note. The whirlwind speed of the opening and closing theme nicely contrasted with a slower than usual tempo in the ravishing middle section. From the glistening percussion at the start to the final climax for full orchestra, all the players proved their mettle in this virtual mini-concerto for orchestra.

Philippe Quint
Next, the darker northern colors of the violin concerto by Sibelius were masterfully rendered by 41-year-old Russian-born soloist Philippe Quint, whose flawless technique was matched by his interpretive subtlety. He and the orchestra captured all the brooding intensity of the first movement, the tender warmth of the second, and the lumbering humor of the finale. Almost as restless as the famously kinetic maestro, the charismatic Quint paced rhythmically with the music even when he wasn’t playing, always maintaining productive eye contact with the musicians.

The concert closed after intermission with a performance for the ages of Bartok’s “Concerto for Orchestra.” Rhodes achieved an ideal balance of the careful orchestration in all five movements, highlighting the high drama of the first, the jaunty humor of the second, with its playful side drum ostinato, the eerie “night music” of the third, the lively rhythm of the fourth, with its hilarious send-up of the Nazi march from Shostakovich’s “Leningrad” symphony, and the brilliance of the finale.

Unusually, this concert featured two encores: a fiendishly difficult reworking by Paganini for solo violin of a theme from Paisiello’s opera “La Molinara,” which Quint dispatched after the Sibelius with crowd-pleasing acrobatics; and, to close, “O Fortuna,” the opening number of Orff’s “Carmina Burana,” which the SSO performed last month in Gillette Stadium before the New England Patriots’ season opener for their largest audience ever. This orchestra is really going places.