Symphony presents diversity of High Romanticism with superb performance

02.24.08
Adele Anthony
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND - Maestro Tsung Yeh and the South Bend Symphony Orchestra presented three very different examples of High Romanticism in a superbly played concert Saturday night at the Morris Performing Arts Center.

Richard Wagner's "Tannhäuser" Overture opened the concert in dramatic fashion with its summary of the opera's plot. The overture began with the gorgeous, majestic tone of the French horns, which imbued the opening with just a hint of mourning in their delivery. Later, the undulating play of the violins provided a good tonal and musical contrast underneath the featured trombones.

During the frenzied section of the piece, the flutes, piccolo and oboes shone with bright, exuberant playing, while the clarinet solo re-introduced the sense of mourning in the piece. As usual, violinist Zofia Glashauser's vibrato sounded magnificent during a brief solo passage.

Guest violinist Adele Anthony joined the orchestra for Henryk Wieniawski's Violin Concerto No. 2 in D minor, Opus 22.

The concerto began with the mood-setting sweeping, lush Romantic playing of the strings before Anthony entered with the first of several solos fueled by her precise, crisp playing of fast phrases that required her left hand to jump all over the neck of her violin.

Spry, joyful playing by Anthony highlighted the first movement's conclusion, while the brass and winds provided wonderful color and power to the movement.

The second movement featured a nice contrast between Anthony's playing and that of the clarinets and oboes behind her, while throughout this slower movement, Anthony put her vibrato to sustained and emotional use.

The third movement began with an incredibly fast and crisply played series of phrases by Anthony. Her playing, however, also was intensely melodic and emotional, not mechanical or a mere demonstration of technique. Throughout the piece, but particularly in the third movement, her vibrant playing had a sense of adventure to it that made the concerto a thrilling work to hear.

Anthony's 1728 Stradivar-ius violin possessed wonderful, rich tone, particularly in the low and middle registers, but also in the high one, and even with the orchestra playing behind her, Anthony was always clearly audible.

 

The concert concluded with a powerful performance of Camille Saint-Saëns' Sym-phony No. 3 in C minor, Opus 78, "Organ," with guest organist Craig Cramer, a professor of music at the University of Notre Dame, and the symphony's pianist, Vakhtang Kodanashvili and his wife, Natia Shioshvili, at the piano.

Throughout the first move-ment, Yeh again demonstrated his knack for creating effective dynamics with his cues for ac-cents from the wind section, in this case, the quick, bold release of power from the full orchestra, and his seamless movement from one orchestral section to another so that the sound glided around the stage.

The creeping pizzicato play of the cellos and basses had a stealthy quality to it as the prelude to the organ's entrance near the end of the movement. Cramer's organ provided a deep undertone that reinforced the melancholy nature of the strings' vibrato playing during this slow section.

The second movement - there are only two - opened with zestful, playful playing by the wind and string sec-tions, but Kodanashvili's playing was barely audible below the full orchestra. The second half of the movement opened with a big, powerful chord by Cramer on the organ to match the orchestra's robust and energetic playing.

Kodanashvili and Shiosh-vili's playing of the four-hands piano part also was barely audible, but what came through had a twinkling quality to it that hinted at an in-teresting contrast to the orchestra's part.

The brass section - tuba and trombones, in particular - and the organ combined for a thunderous finale to the symphony to bring it - and the concert - to a grand, euphoric conclusion.