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JoAnn Falletta & Alexi Kenney

Review: Falletta plays with senses leading Sarasota Orchestra’s Masterworks

From the Sarasota Herald Tribune

By Gayle Williams

JoAnn Falletta is one of nine guest conductors this season during the Sarasota Orchestra’s search for a new music director.

Internationally acclaimed female conductors of the world are sadly still few and far between despite growing numbers of women in the field. Among this top echelon is JoAnn Falletta, music director of the Buffalo Symphony Orchestra and the Virginia Symphony, who led the Sarasota Orchestra in a vivid and at times electrifying performance Friday night at Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.

This concert stood out for a variety of reasons, one of which was the simple choice of three symphonic tone poems featured on the program.

In contrast, the Violin Concerto No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 26 by Max Bruch with soloist Alexi Kenney gave us a glimpse of a talent on the rise. Kenney played with a sense of poetry and authenticity and with ample impressive technique. This Bruch concerto is a staple of the repertoire, but Kenney did not follow the beaten path. Rising from an inner quiet, his opening phrase of the prelude stretched out organically as if finding its way for the first time. There was a poetry to his vision of the concerto and Falletta followed suit with an orchestra often playing in hushed tones. Yet the flash did win out in the more fiery Finale for all to enjoy. Kenney returned for an unusually satisfying fantasia encore by Romanian composer/violinist Georges Enesco.

Falletta, one of nine guest conductors this season as the Sarasota Orchestra conducts a search for a new music director, mastered an even broader orchestral palette than usual in the technicolor orchestration Ottorino Respighi employed in his two tone poems on the program: “Le fontane di Roma” (The Fountains of Rome) and “Feste romane” (Roman Festivals). It is not only a credit to the artistry of the Sarasota musicians who consistently turn out sparkling music, but also to Falletta who guided the balance, seeing that inner voices were heard, color amplified, and clarity prevailed in intentionally sculpted phrases.

Read the full review.