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Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra all-Mozart program at Fox Cities Performing Arts Center in Appleton a masterful performance

Mar. 13, 2010

The Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra thrilled its audience Saturday night with an all-Mozart program at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center.

Using a smaller ensemble, Maestro Brian Groner's programming provided the full gamut of emotion, style, and elegance we have grown to attribute to the genius of Mozart’s compositions. For me, it was also an evening of dynamics and tempos, as the orchestra followed carefully each of Groner's artistic gestures from the podium. The concert began the exciting overture to "The Marriage of Figaro." I was particularly taken with Groner's sprightly tempo choice. The orchestra responded as the opening strains moved towards the exciting musical gestures that followed. In all, a clean reading with much attention to detail.

When thinking of Mozart's musical output, all too often the volume of concertos for winds is set aside for those more familiar ones for piano.

Fortunately, this was not the case Saturday night as the audience was treated to a stunning performance of the most mature and expressive of the wind concerti, the Concerto for Clarinet in A Major, K. 622.

The soloist for the evening was the acclaimed clarinetist David Shrifin. For this performance, Shrifin played the concerto on the extended-range basset clarinet, for which he is known.

This instrument extends the range of the clarinet down an extra three notes in the scale allowing for the full range of scales and arpeggios that Mozart had apparently intended to hear Shrifin's performance was stunning. His control of dynamics, expression, tempos, and technical flair were something to behold. What I found most outstanding was the tempo selection in the last movement. The tempo was controlled and precise, allowing every gesture to soar from the stage.

Shrifin was at his absolute best. The orchestral accompaniment was impeccable with careful dynamics and a constant eye on the soloist. For an encore, Shrifin played a transcription of "Queen of the Night" aria from "The Magic Flute" scored for the piccolo clarinet. Great fun.

The concert closed with a rousing performance of Mozart's last symphony, No. 41 in C Major, known as the “Jupiter”. Again, Groner showed his mastery of the orchestra with his reading of this work.

Though a large symphony, it is scored for a relatively small wind section, but one that is of equal importance to the strings. The tempos and dynamic shaping were, as in the earlier pieces, ideal and offered so much to its successful performance.

Once again, however, I must turn my attention to the final movement. Here is where both the strength of the musical composition and the orchestra's performance came to the fore. What can one do with a four-note theme (C-D-F-E)? Ask Mozart. That was all he needed to start the final movement, and where he went from there is quite an adventure in music.

The themes twist and turn, are imitated and become a fugue, creating an essay in counterpoint throughout the movement. This was all well played with clear articulation and just the right amount of accent from the winds.

- James Chaudoir - Post Crescent

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