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FVS shines with nod to Romeo and Juliet

Nov. 7, 2006

By James Chaudoir
For The Post-Crescent

An eclectic program of music awaited the audience as they filled the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center Saturday evening for this season's second concert of the Fox Valley Symphony.

Works by established masters of the twentieth-century coupled with the youthful virtuosity of the evening's featured soloist made for a very interesting concert, indeed.

As in the first program of the season, Music Director Brian Groner again displayed his skill in directing the orchestra with precision and great musicality.

Opening the concert was the Suite Op. 11 from Eric Korngold's Much Ado About Nothing. Audiences rarely have the opportunity to hear Korngold's music so this was a special treat.

It was easy to hear his experience as a film composer rising through the five movements of the suite. Lyrical lines and frequent solo passages made this a particularly enjoyable concert opener. The woodwind and brass playing in the third movement, March of the Watch" was exact and added just the right amount of rhythmic energy to the piece.

The second work performed was Samuel Barber's eloquent and demanding Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, featuring violinist Timothy Fain. Since its premiere in 1941, the concerto has slowly worked its way into the standard repertoire of today's concert scene.

Fain proved himself up to the task in approaching and mastering this impressive musical composition. His sound was strong and evenly balanced throughout the entire range of his instrument from the highly lyrical passages through the large angular leaps to the racing virtuostic passages of sixteenth-notes in the final movement.

The orchestra did its part as well with numerous solos tossed throughout the three movements and equally lyrical and angular passages as those of the solo violin.

Groner was at his best guiding all the parties involved through this maze of complexities. As an encore, Fain performed a virtuostic solo piece, "Arches," written in 2000 by composer Kevin Puts.

Perhaps the high point of the evening came with the first piece after intermission, Sergi Prokofiev's Second Suite from Romeo and Juliet. Of his three suites taken from his ballet of the same name, this is the one which, to me, offers the finest music. From the "screaming" chords that open "The Montagues and Capulets" to the final moments of "Romeo at Juliet's Grave," Prokofiev displays his mastery not only as a composer, but of a skilled orchestrator, creating one colorful combination of instruments after another. Scored for large orchestra, which includes tenor saxophone, the Fox Valley Symphony rose to the occasion in offering a solid and heart-felt rendition of the massive score.

Again, Groner excelled with his interpretation of Prokovfiev's music.
Closing the concert was The Moldau, a perennial concert favorite by Bedrich Smetana.

The most recognized movement from his symphonic cycle, My Fatherland, this charming work depicting a flowing river never ceases to please listeners. Saturday's performance was no exception. The well-played opening passages in the flutes set the piece in motion and with Groner's guidance, flowed expertly through the middle dance section and back again.

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