Review: Guest guitarist charms as DSSO show off strengths through varietyOn Saturday night, the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra opened the 2012 half of its current season with three stunning combinations.
By: Samuel Black, for the News Tribune
On Saturday night, the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra opened the 2012 half of its current season with three stunning combinations. Candidate conductor David Danzmayr brought his clear vision to this classical program. More than 60 members of the Duluth Superior Youth Symphony filled the stage to an overflowing opening. And the brilliant, sensitive guitar playing of Sharon Isbin crowned the evening.
Roughly one hundred chairs were on stage as the DSSO and its Youth Symphony resonated with the “Symphonic Suite from ‘The Lord of the Rings,’” by Howard Shore. Multiple melodies from the film score were enhanced by University of Minnesota Duluth soprano Rebecca Farmer singing a hymn to the universal success of the hobbit mission.
Chairs were removed, but a full DSSO moved on with the the Second Suite composer Manuel de Falla created from his ballet “The Three-Cornered Hat.” This collection of three dances from Act Two of the story offered a very Spanish twist to the concert.
The exuberant opening was followed by a “farruca” presented by the miller, as he began clicking his heels and ended by displaying his very macho capabilities. Then the entire village bursts forth in the captivating “jota,” creating colorful excitement to the very last chord. This is virtuosic orchestral music, and the DSSO under Danzmayr’s sense of confidence played it crisply and enthusiastically.
Isbin, a Minnesotan whose true home is the music of the entire world, kept the audience in Spain for another half hour. The “Concierto do Aranjuez,” by Joaquin Rodrigo dropped the size of the symphony orchestra to about 30 musicians, which allowed for increased sensitivity.
In the first movement all the strings sounded like whispering breezes blowing through the trees. The guitar was aggressive, making melodies that were unmistakably Spanish. The second movement was hauntingly Andalusian, with a melody that Isbin and the orchestra kept returning to with a strong nostalgic flavor.
The English horn of Laurie Van Brunt and the oboe of Michael Dayton shared this lovely theme. The finale turned rhythmic, the strings doing as much plucking as the guitar, and the whole ensemble danced gently off into the sunset.
Isbin is always welcome in Duluth, although 10 years have elapsed since her last DSSO appearance. She offered two encores: a gentle British folk song called “Andecy” by Andrew York, and the opening “Allegro” from “La Catedral” by South American composer Barrios Mangoré. The audience was warmly appreciative to her sensitive playing.
Maestro Danzmayr chose to balance the Spanish presence with the most Czech of all Antonin Dvorak’s symphonies, the Symphony
No. 8, Op. 88. In this rhythmically complex work, the orchestra shows how well it can follow these candidate conductors. Danzmayr knows this work well, and he led it confidently.
The second movement was filled with rapidly changing rhythms, characteristic of the Czech folk world Dvorak breathed. After a lovely waltz movement, a trumpet fanfare announced the robust finale, with its lyrical melodies punctuated by abrupt, energetic passages, featuring the brass adding brilliance to the work.
The orchestra is sounding strong this season, adapting rapidly to the styles of five different candidate conductors. The flexible, richly varied nature of this concert allowed the DSSO to display its many strengths.
Samuel Black is a performing Duluth musician who reviews musical events for the News Tribune.