Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

February 13, 2024

REVIEW: Hartford Symphony Orchestra, "Enduring Love Stories"

The Bushnell, Hartford, CT
February 9-11, 2024
by Michael J. Moran

With five musical selections about love stories and a married couple as featured performers,
the fifth “Masterworks” weekend of the HSO’s 80th anniversary season offered an early celebration of Valentine’s Day.

What better way to open the program than with Tchaikovsky’s popular 1869 “Romeo and Juliet Fantasy-Overture"? Music Director Carolyn Kuan led the orchestra in an incandescent account, which captured the foreboding tension of the quiet opening, the drama of the family feud between the Montagues and the Capulets, and the youthful passion of Shakespeare’s famous lovers.    
Boyd Meets Girl

Next came the world premiere of Clarice Assad’s concerto for guitar, cello, and orchestra, "Anahata,” commissioned by the HSO for, and played here by, the duo “Boyd Meets Girl” – Australian-born guitarist Rupert Boyd and his wife, cellist Laura Metcalf. The composer notes, “Anahata," “unhurt”…in Sanskrit, refers to the heart,” and “its three movements explore…love’s wounds [and] its most precious dreams.”

From a stirring “The Color Green” to a haunting “Desert Roses” and a lively “Full Circle Reel,” the elegant solos and duets by Boyd and Metcalf blended sensitively with Assad’s brilliant orchestration (including water bowls), which reflected the Latin rhythms of her native Brazil.

The duo’s encore was a jazzy yet poignant setting of the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby,” evoking America’s love affair with the Fab Four on the 60th anniversary weekend of their first appearance on the "Ed Sullivan Show".  

Tchaikovsky’s love for and regular visits to Italy inspired some of his finest music, like his 1880 “Capriccio Italien,” which quotes local tunes he heard in Rome. The HSO reveled in its solemn opening fanfare, sprightly folk dances, giddy tarantella, and closing blaze of orchestral color.

This was followed by a radiant performance of the sublime “Adagietto” movement from Mahler’s 1901-1902 fifth symphony, a musical love letter to his wife-to-be, Alma, which Kuan and the orchestra dedicated to beloved recently deceased 57-year HSO violinist Frank Kulig.

The overture to Offenbach’s 1858 opera “Orpheus in the Underworld” proved a surprisingly apt concert closer in these musicians’ exuberant reading. Its cheerful “Can Can” tune suggested a happier ending to the love story of Orpheus and Eurydice than his failure to bring her back from dead.  

The HSO’s next Masterworks program (March 8-10) will feature music of Copland and Bernstein.