Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

November 16, 2020

REVIEW: Hartford Symphony Orchestra, Spotlight Series

Hartford Symphony Orchestra, Hartford, CT
November 13-December 6, 2020
by Michael J. Moran

After presenting two successful installments in their “Masterworks In-Depth” series of virtual conversations about the music they would have played at live concerts cancelled by the Covid pandemic this fall, the HSO has just launched a second monthly series of 60-minute performances by HSO ensembles and guests recorded at Hartford area venues, and available on-demand for a limited time.

The first concert was filmed at TheaterWorks in Hartford and featured music of William 
Bolcom, Franz Joseph Haydn, Jessie Montgomery, and Antonín Dvořák, performed by HSO musicians: Associate Concertmaster Lisa Rautenberg; Assistant Principal viola Aekyung Kim; Principal cello Jeffrey Krieger; pianist Stephen Scarlato; and Concertmaster Leonid Sigal, who also hosts.

The program opened with Bolcom’s piano trio “Haydn Go Seek,” commissioned in 2009 on the 200th anniversary of Haydn’s death. Sigal, Krieger, and Scarlato nicely captured the playful spirit of its two short movements, an affectionate “Introduction” and a scampering “Rondo.” Next, Haydn’s own String Trio in B-Flat Major, composed at age 32 in 1765, exuded the same youthful exuberance in a lively account by Rautenberg, Krieger, and Kim of its theme-and-variations “Adagio,” stately “Menuet,” and romping “Presto” finale.

Thirty-something African-American violinist and music educator Jessie Montgomery is also in growing demand as a composer, and her imaginative 2012 string quartet “Strum” suggested why. The four HSO string players plucked their instruments with evident delight in the folk-inspired, dance-like rhythms of this joyful score. The entire ensemble then closed the concert with a glowing rendition of the opening “Allegro ma non tanto” movement of Dvorak’s masterful Piano Quintet in A.
While the TheaterWorks acoustics lacked ideal warmth for this repertoire and the last three of Dvorak’s four movements go missing, Sigal’s spoken introductions to each piece are were engaging and insightful, and the selection of composers and music were admirably eclectic. The musicians’ informal attire was welcoming, but their Covid face masks were poignant reminders of their continuing distance from their audience.
This concert will remain available for viewing through December 6, free to HSO subscribers and at modest cost to anyone else, at the HSO web site: