Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

May 21, 2019

REVIEW: Springfield Symphony Orchestra, 75th Season Finale

Symphony Hall, Springfield, MA
May 18, 2019
by Michael J. Moran

For the “grand finale” of their 75th anniversary season, the SSO’s Music Director Kevin Rhodes paired a brand new piece written for the occasion with two of the most popular selections in the classical repertoire, one of which (Dvorak’s “New World” symphony) was performed in the SSO’s very first concert on March 5, 1944. This retrospective focus also felt like a nod to the recent passing of Rhodes’ SSO predecessor (SSO conducting years 1955-1969) Robert Staffanson.

The concert opened with the world premiere of the “Overtura Rocambolesca” by the SSO’s own principal bass player, Salvatore Macchia. In a pre-concert talk, the sometime composer and 40-year SSO member translated the title as “rambunctious” or “celebratory” overture, not only for the anniversary but for individual orchestra colleagues. The colorful 13-minute piece was exuberantly performed, including virtuosic solo passages for new principal flute (Ann Bobo) and bassoon (Yeh-Chi Wang) players.

Yevgeny Kutik
The other star of the evening was Belarussian-American violinist Yevgeny Kutik, who grew up in Lee, MA, in his third SSO appearance in five years. What distinguished his riveting account of Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto from those of other gifted young soloists was not just his mastery of its stringent technical demands but his careful attention to its musical details. He captured the dramatic mood swings of the long opening movement with rare passion; his tenderness in the slow “Canzonetta” made it clear why Leo Tolstoy wept on first hearing it; and his dark, weighty tone perfectly conveyed the lumbering humor of the Russian dance finale. The enthralled audience gave him the first of two standing ovations after the first movement!

The fresh energy which characterized the SSO’s rendition of Dvorak’s ninth symphony after intermission confirmed Rhodes’ assurance in the pre-concert talk that he never gets tired of conducting it. The solemn start and lively main theme of the first movement have seldom sounded so intense; the familiar “Largo” (later adapted as “Goin Home”) was hushed and radiant; the scherzo movement was fleet and insistent; and the “Allegro” finale had exhilarating sweep.

If the SSO’s April 27 concert (“Mozart and Mahler 2”) was this season’s “first grand finale,” as Rhodes called it then, tonight’s follow-up was fully its equal.