Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

May 13, 2024

REVIEW: Hartford Symphony Orchestra, "Mozart & Prokofiev"

The Bushnell, Belding Theater, Hartford, CT
May 10-12, 2024
by Michael J. Moran

The eighth “Masterworks” program of the HSO’s 80th anniversary season presented three works in a ”classical” style and one recent piece in a more modern style. HSO Assistant Conductor Adam Kerry Boyles emphasized their differences rather than their similarities.

The concert began with Sergei Prokofiev’s 1917 first symphony, known as his “Classical Symphony” because he wrote it in the 18th-century style of Haydn and Mozart. But its four short movements – a buoyant “Allegro con brio;” a flowing “Larghetto;” a graceful “Gavotte: Non troppo allegro;” and a vivacious “Finale: Molto vivace” – also featured the spiky harmonies of his native Russia during World War I. Boyles and the HSO gave it a supple performance.

Angelina Gadeliya
Next came an HSO premiere, the 2016 piano concerto, “Spiritualist,” by New Jersey-born Kenneth Fuchs. In three short movements named after paintings by American artist Helen Frankenthaler – an ecstatic “Spiritualist;” a dreamy “Silent Wish;” and an exuberant “Natural Answer;” this colorful score was played with dexterity and imagination by Georgian-American pianist Angelina Gadeliya, with full-blooded support from Boyles and the orchestra.

Each painting was helpfully projected above the Belding stage, along with revealing overhead views of Gadeliya’s fluid hands at the keyboard.  Composer and soloist, both music professors at UConn Storrs, received a standing ovation from the enthusiastic audience.  

The program closed with two related 1786 works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: the Overture to his comic opera “The Marriage of Figaro;” and the Symphony #38, nicknamed “Prague” after the city where it was premiered. Boyles and the HSO gave the overture a perky and playful spin. Their “Prague” symphony highlighted the mature Mozart’s variety of melodic invention in all three movements, from a mercurial opening “Adagio-Allegro,” to a radiant central “Andante” and a whirlwind closing “Presto,” which quotes an aria from “The Marriage of Figaro.”
Boyles is an animated conductor, who leads without a baton and whose toolbox includes a wide range of facial expressions, hand motions, crouches, leaps, and other postures, all in service of the music. His warmth, sense of humor, and easy rapport with audience and musicians alike bode well for his future with and beyond the HSO.

The orchestra’s final Masterworks program (June 7-9) of the season will feature HSO Music Director Carolyn Kuan and violinist Melissa White in music of Simon, Bruch, and Holst.