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Symphony’s Debut Concert Impressive ... but Lacking PDF Print E-mail
Music - Feature Stories
Tuesday, 11 October 2005 18:00
Filled with pleasing melodies and heartwarming themes, the concert opening the Quad City Symphony Orchestra’s 91st season was an understated balm for the soul. Concert pianist Alon Goldstein joined the symphony in Augustana’s Centennial Hall to deliver a performance that was simply enjoyable from beginning to end.

Ludwig Van Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture opened the concert, its minor powerful chords and swelling lyrical melodies audibly presenting the Shakespeare play Coriolanus. Coriolanus was a historical figure who lived in ancient Rome. After becoming a hero, Coriolanus later betrayed Rome, leading its enemies in a siege against the city. After his mother pleaded with him, he led Rome’s enemies to their own country, where he was assassinated. The overture communicated urgency, anger, and sorrow with short staccato notes and pleading lyrical segments. The piece ended with individually directed chords that faded into nothing, just as Coriolanus would have done in the play.

The next piece, Robert Schumann’s Concerto in A Minor, demonstrated sensitivity to balance and control. Goldstein not only joined the orchestra on-stage; he immersed himself in the piece and became one with the orchestra itself. He knew when to fade into the background and when to thunderously present his talent. After tearing through the introduction to the piece, the orchestra dropped out and the woodwinds introduced a version of the melody. Goldstein then echoed the theme in a simple, stylistic presentation. Thus began a playful, lyrical, beautiful rendition of the piece in which Goldstein became an equal (however world-traveled and amazingly skilled) member of the orchestra, without monopolizing the spotlight.

Symphony clarinetist Molly Paccione, oboeist Robert McConnell, and flutist Gerald Carey all gave beautiful performances, enhancing Goldstein’s performance with their own. Unpretentious and friendly with a bit of flair, Goldstein performed gracefully, sensitively, and with a wonderful ear for dynamic changes. The transitions in this piece were seamless, moving from light, delicate passages to more regal and urgent themes with ease. I felt conductor Donald Schleicher became a guide, directing not only the orchestra, but also leading the audience through each section of the piece.

Centennial Hall’s organ, which is usually the visual focal point in the building, was featured in the final piece of the evening, Camille Saint-Saens’s Symphony No. 3 in C Minor (“Organ”). Dennis Lofton played the impressive instrument. I was a bit apprehensive that the organ piece would be brash and overpowering. But Saint-Saens’s composition and Lofton’s performance were never harsh and barely brazen. Beginning with a barely-there set of sustained notes, the first movement featured heart-wrenching themes that summoned visuals from classic romance movies. Intertwining sections of strings, bass, and cello; descending chromatic scales; and a sneaky-sounding bass joined to create a musically interesting adventure.

The final movement began with furious fast repeated notes and more urgency than the first movement, although it included intertwining lines and counter-melodies, as the first movement did. Near the end of the piece, Lofton literally pulled out all the stops and the organ showed us, just for a few seconds, what it could do. Lilting strings, bold brass, crashing symbols, and thundering tympani joined together for an ending befitting the piece: loud, dramatic, and somewhat predictable. After the final notes faded, Schleicher dropped his arms, and my guest commented that he looked worn out.

I must say that although this program was interesting, it wasn’t one of my favorites. I felt that many of the technical pieces were a bit muddy, without the cohesiveness and clarity I now expect from the orchestra. The program included a variety of pieces, but it lacked the power of many other performances I have attended. I look forward to the next concert and hearing the progress of this year’s performers.
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