Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

March 24, 2021

REVIEW: Hartford Symphony Orchestra, Spotlight Series

Hartford Symphony Orchestra, Hartford, CT

Through April 11, 2021

by Michael J. Moran


The fifth installment in the HSO’s monthly virtual “Spotlight Series” of 60-minute concerts by HSO ensembles and guests recorded at Hartford area venues is now available on-demand at the orchestra’s web site through April 11, 2021, at 5:00 pm. Filmed in the Theater of the Performing Arts at Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts and entitled “Wind Power - Music for Brass and Woodwinds,” it featured a wide range of music by nine composers spanning six centuries.


It was performed by HSO musicians: Dominique Kim, Flute; Cheryl Bishkoff, Oboe; Eddie Sundra, Assistant Principal Clarinet; Pinghua Ren, Assistant Principal Bassoon; Scott McIntosh, Principal Trumpet; John Charles Thomas, Assistant Principal Trumpet; Barbara Hill, Principal Horn; Brian L. Diehl, Principal Trombone; and Adam Crowe, Tuba. Most of them helpfully introduced at least one piece. The first five pieces were played by the brass quintet, and the last four by the wind quintet (Hill played in both groups).


The program opened festively with American trombonist Eric Ewazen’s 1997 “Western Fanfare,” followed by Hartt graduate Laura Bernofsky’s 1990 “Passacaglia,” dedicated to Diehl and showing off both his sleek trombone and Crowe’s impressively agile tuba. The haunting sound of Indian-American composer Reena Esmail’s 2014 “Tuttarana” reflected its multiple inspirations (“tutti” means “all” in Italian, and “Tarana” refers to both a Hindustani musical form and #MeToo movement founder Tarana Burke). A stately 1975 “Chorale” by African-American composer George Walker preceded Samuel Scheidt’s spirited 1621 “Canzona Bergamasca.”


The fresh, bracing sonorities of the first movement of Carl Nielsen’s 1922 “Wind Quintet” launched the concert’s second half. Sundra’s eclectic arrangement of John Newton’s “Amazing Grace” showcased his own soulful clarinet and a bagpipe-style drone by Ren’s bassoon. The rich, intricate harmonies of Amy Beach’s 1942 “Pastorale” were played with flowing grace. Flutist Valerie Coleman’s 2008 “Umoja” (Swahili for “unity,” the first day of the African-American holiday Kwanzaa) brought the program to a jubilant close.


The Theater acoustics were appropriately bright, clear, and vibrant. The musicians were separated by plexiglass panels, which added a warm glow to the stage. HSO Board Vice Chair Mathew Jasinsky was enthusiastic in brief welcome and closing remarks.