Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

April 14, 2017

Nights in the Gardens of Spain

Springfield Symphony, Springfield, MA
April 8, 2017
by Shera Cohen

I’m not going to pretend to have anywhere near the high credentials of In the Spotlight’s seasoned classical music reviewer, Michael Moran. You will read no Latin words or phrases in my description of this music. Yet, I have attended symphonic concerts since I was a child. Those were the days when buses were filled with kids from nearly all the neighborhood elementary schools, and set them en route to their own private concert in Symphony Hall. It is wonderful to know that that indoctrination to classical music (for me, some 50 years ago) continues. Seeing the dozen or so yellow school buses aligning the streets at Court Square brings back memories. At the same time, I hope that those youngsters in attendance will create their own memories.

SSO is winding down its season with “…Gardens of Spain.” The evening’s music proved a smorgasbord of composers, styles, and eras. Maestro Kevin Rhodes called the first piece a “symphonic poem,” distinguishing itself from a “normal” symphony concert. This meant that linear lines of melody and instruments didn’t fall naturally in place as the listener might expect. This style of presentation applied to the program’s first two selections – Franz Liszt’s “Prometheus,” and Camille Saint-Saens’ “The Youth of Hercules.”

Rhodes’ repartee with his audience is always educational in a charming, non-didactic way. I always learn more about music, composers, and musical instruments than I ever expected.

Pianist Washington Garcia deftly put himself to work interpreting Manuel de Falla’s “Nights in the Gardens of Spain.” Previously, Rhodes advised his audience to listen for a Moorish undertone throughout. This was the case in all three movements, as Garcia and the SSO created exotic and colorful music to reach the rafters in the beautiful, and acoustically-correct Symphony Hall. After this long work, it’s difficult to decide who was happier – the audience having just heard a masterpiece, or pianist Garcia who seemed to puff up with pride and joy, both justifiably.

Rimsky-Korsakof’s Capriccio Espangnol provided most of the Spanish sounds in the evening’s program, which also concluded the performance. Five folk song pieces formed the core of Capriccio. Sprite and whimsical, lovely and stirring. It took five percussionists to generate the power to conclude the concert.