Concert Review | ProMusica: Musical pairings kick off season in grand style

Stefan Jackiw
Columbus Dispatch

By Jennifer Hambrick

The opening concert of the ProMusica Chamber Orchestra’s 33rd season was a celebration of great musical pairings: the felicitous pairing of instruments within the orchestra, the dynamic pairing of the orchestra with violin soloist Stefan Jackiw, and the pairing of two longtime ProMusica advocates.

From its Hawaii Five-0-like opening, to its quotations of and allusions to the sounds of Hollywood’s nightclubs and film soundtracks, American composer Michael Daugherty’s Sunset Strip is a musical dreamscape brimming with the essence of La-La Land.

ProMusica Music Director Timothy Russell led the orchestra in a crisp and vivid interpretation, gallivanting through jaunty passages like tripping down Rodeo Drive and leaning into dissonances like gritting teeth through L.A. traffic.

ProMusica honored two of its longtime supporters by commissioning (with additional financial support from individuals in and beyond Columbus, including — full disclosure — the author of this review) Peter Schickele’s Six Studies for Clarinet and Bassoon. The work celebrates the 25th wedding anniversary of Boyce Lancaster and Beverley Ervine, both ProMusica artistic advisers and veteran classical-music advocates in their professional roles at WOSU Public Media.

Two ProMusica principals — clarinetist Robert Spring and bassoonist Ellen Connors — gave Schickele’s quirky piece a beautiful world-premiere performance. They flowed through the Cantilena first movement, danced through the passionate Spanish Nights movement with the right amount of strut, marched solemnly through the fifth movement Hymn (based on the doxology) and kicked through the Vaudeville finale with just enough grit to invoke the raunchiness of vaudeville without sacrificing the sweetness of Schickele’s piece.

The orchestra gave a sparkling performance of Joan Tower’s Duets for Chamber Orchestra. The piece itself fell short of the rich potential of its premise: exploring the various instrumental pairings possible within the orchestra. This fascinating concept bore beautiful fruit in the opening cello duet and in the color resulting from the other duets that spoke at one point or another in the work. But the overall soundscape of Tower’s Duets was too much the same.

The final pairing of the evening, that of the orchestra with violin soloist Stefan Jackiw in Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, packed the most punch. The refreshingly un-showy Jackiw’s performance was technically flawless, but what impressed the most was his ability to take us with him into the very soul of each note of the soloist’s part.

A consummate artist can unite his listeners with the music he’s playing to the extent that he himself nearly disappears. Jackiw does this — and more.