Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

May 24, 2021

REVIEW: Hartford Symphony Orchestra, Spotlight Series

Hartford Symphony Orchestra, Hartford, CT
through June 13, 2021
by Michael J. Moran

The seventh and final episode of the HSO’s monthly virtual “Spotlight Series” of 60-minute concerts by HSO ensembles is now available on-demand at the orchestra’s website through June 13, 2021. Filmed at four different Hartford area venues and entitled “Spotlight: Mixtape,” it featured 26 HSO musicians performing in six separate groups and playing music by seven diverse composers for a variety of instruments.

The HSO Brass Quintet (trumpeters Scott McIntosh and John Charles Thomas, hornists Barbara Hill and Brian Diehl, and Adam Crowe on tuba) opened on a celebratory note with Gwyneth Walker’s rousing 1987 “Raise the Roof!,” complete with hand and foot tapping in the rhythm of carpenters rebuilding a Vermont concert hall. The HSO String Quartet (violinists Lisa Rautenberg and Martha Kayser, violist Nicholas Borghoff, and cellist Jeffrey Krieger) followed with a stately account of Georg Philipp Telemann’s elegant 1761 “Don Quixote Overture.”

HSO percussionists Robert McEwan, David West, Douglas Perry, and Evan Glickman and timpanist Eugene Bozzi next gave a knockout performance of Christopher Rouse’s 1976 Voodoo-inspired “Ogoun Badagris,” based on Haitian drumming patterns, and ending with all players shouting “Reler” (“Amen”). HSO violinist Lu Sun Friedman’s poignant account of Edith Piaf’s difficult life made the loving rendition by the Mosaic Trio (Friedman, violist Patricia Daly Vance, and cellist Peter Zay) of her “La Vie en Rose” the program’s emotional heart.

Carolyn Kuan

The A Piacere (“At Your Pleasure”) Quartet (violinists Jaroslaw Lis and Deborah Tyler, violist Michael Wheeler, and cellist Jia Cao) then tore into Astor Piazzolla’s 1988 “Four for Tango,” written for the Kronos Quartet, with passion, panache, and birdlike sound effects. The HSO Wind Quintet (flutist Dominique Kim, oboist Cheryl Bishkoff, clarinetist Eddie Sundra, bassoonist Pinghua Ren, and hornist Barbara Hill) played Jeff Scott’s 2014 “Startin Sumthin,” a “modern wind quintet take on swing music,” in Kim’s words, with joyous flights of jazzy humor.

HSO Music Director Carolyn Kuan closed the concert leading a slightly reduced orchestra on the Bushnell’s Belding stage in an exuberant Brahms “Hungarian Dance #5,” presaging the HSO’s welcome return to Covid-safe live performance when their Talcott Mountain Music Festival opens in Simsbury on July 2.