Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Vivacious Classical Collage from Canton Symphony

A Vivacious Classical Collage from Canton Symphony Orchestra
By Tom Wachunas

The Canton Symphony Orchestra (CSO) Cameo Concerts feature a chamber ensemble comprised of the orchestra’s finest musicians performing under the baton of CSO Associate Conductor Matthew Brown. Hosting this season’s performances were Louisville Middle School (presented in cooperation with the Julliard Arts Center) on April 14, and the Lions Lincoln Theatre in Massillon, sponsored by The Fred F. Silk Charitable Foundation, on April 15.

Judging from the sparse attendance, perhaps the Massillon performance somehow slipped under public awareness radar. Or maybe it was Nature’s call to be outdoors in absolutely gorgeous April weather that simply proved too much for even the most stalwart CSO supporters to resist. That said, the musical weather inside Lions Lincoln Theatre on April 15 was gloriously invigorating.

The concert’s opening work – Rossini’s Overture to La scala di seta (The Silken Ladder) - was itself a delightful nod to spring spirits, bursting with vibrant crescendos and the engaging interplay of stirring melodies and quick rhythms. The orchestra was commanding as well as charming in its embrace of all the work’s buoyant energy and humor (many have compared its similarity in structure and spirit to a movement Mozart would have written), including Rossini’s deliciously rich writing for solo wind instruments.

The second work on the program – Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture – was performed with equally impressive vigor. One could reasonably expect that a modern full orchestra would surely do justice to this dramatic piece, conjuring as it is does the powerful, ethereal images of towering, wind-swept cliffs, ocean mists, and rolling waves. Most remarkable is that the CSO, pared down to roughly a third of its full size, on this occasion was nevertheless riveting in bringing sonorous physicality to those images.

Easily the most arresting music of the afternoon was provided by violinist Lauren Roth, CSO Concertmaster, in a stunning performance of a single-movement gem by Camille Saint-Saens, Romance for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 48. It’s an achingly mellifluous work, evoking both wistful melancholy and quiet joy, and certainly demanding in its dazzling range of note runs. Roth pulled out all the stops, as it were. Her facile tonal control and virtuosic clarity breathed real lyric power into this rarely heard work.

In a refreshingly mischievous note to the audience prior to the final work on the program – Mozart’s Symphony No. 35 (Haffner) - Maestro Brown commented on the traditional concert protocol of withholding applause until all four movements of a symphony are completed. Grinning widely, he clearly enjoyed encouraging us to eschew the practice and clap after each movement if we were so inclined. The audience gladly obliged, and appropriately so. Brown’s uniquely animated conducting manner effectively drew out this music’s lively octave leaps, witty rhythms, and lilting formality, all the way through to the crackling, fast finale. Bravo Presto! Once again the CSO proved its technical and interpretive prowess with memorable panache, and in the process gave a fitting welcome to the sparkling energy of spring.

Photos: CSO Associate Conductor Matthew Brown, and CSO Concertmaster Lauren Roth
Please visit www.cantonsymphony.org for ordering tickets, or call the box office at (330) 452-2094. CSO final MasterWorks series concert of the 2011-2012 season, with Gerhardt Zimmermann conducting, will be at Umstattd Hall on Saturday, April 28, 8p.m.

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