Lehninger, Lefkowitz lead KSO in detailed performance

Marcelo Lehninger
Knoxville News

In 1924, Vladimir Lenin, the founder of the USSR died. Nineteen year-old Demitri Shostakovich wrote his "Symphony No. 1 in F Minor, Op. 10," and began his lifelong struggle of being alternately celebrated and reviled by the brutal regime that followed.

In Italy, Benito Mussolini won his first Fascist election. Ottorino Respighi, 45, wrote his glowing landscape portrait of Rome, "The Pines of Rome," more or less innocent of the Fascist propaganda going on around him.

In Paris, Maurice Ravel, one of music's greatest orchestrators, wrote the devilishly tangled and ticklish violin showpiece, "Tzigane, Concert Rhapsody for Violin and Orchestra," during the context of the Paris Olympic Games.

Thursday night at the Tennessee Theatre, conductor candidate Marcelo Lehninger led the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra in finely detailed performances of these three terrific works, along with Colin Matthews' orchestrated excerpts from Claude Debussy's piano "Preludes," Books I and II.

It was clear from the beginning that Brazilian-born Lehninger knew the Shostakovich well enough to get into the nooks and crannies of the composer's sometimes subtle, sometimes not, moments of wit and biting sarcasm. Shostakovich used it throughout his career to communicate to his audiences right under the noses of the Stalinist overlords.

The recent associate conductor of the Boston Symphony and current music director of the New West Symphony Orchestra in Los Angeles, Lehninger seemed comfortable and in charge on the KSO podium.

His baton work was crisp and articulate. When he wanted a more lyrical, singing passage in the winds in the second movement of the Shostakovich, he abandoned the baton and conducted with both hands, the way good choral conductors do.

While his baton was in his right hand, his left hand shaped the dynamics he wanted.

Just as his predecessor did, he expected the orchestra musicians to play on the beat, instead of behind the beat, as Lucas Richman's predecessor had expected.

He kept the spattered instrumental voices of the Shostakovich first movement clean and crisp.

When Lehninger commented during his opening remarks that the Knoxville Symphony is an excellent orchestra, it was clear that he wasn't just being a polite guest.

Read the rest of the review here