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Fox Valley Symphony, harpist come together for a flawless performance

Nov. 6, 2010


Eloquent strains of music, both familiar and new, filled the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center Saturday as the Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra presented its second subscription concert of the season.

A Mozart overture is a familiar opening to many concerts, but new for this program was a less familiar piece, the "Overture to 'The Impresario,'" written in 1786. This brief overture was written about the same time as the more familiar "The Marriage of Figaro."

The music offered a full compliment of winds on stage to balance the role of the strings, and as with so many of the Mozart overtures, proved itself to be quite entertaining. The orchestra played with clear articulation and good intonation.

The second piece on the program offered something new — Gustavo Leone’s concerto for harp "Como un Sueño" (Like a Dream), which received its premiere in 2006. Written in three movements, played without pause, the piece, as likened to its title, was reserved and not overbearing.

Most memorable was the effective use of percussion for the entire work. Other notables were unfolding layers of sounds, rich and engaging harmonies, creation of sound towers, and just a touch of minimalism to keep it flowing. I couldn't help but notice the greater use of dissonance in the orchestra, while the harp solo remained for the most part, consonant. A strategically placed cadenza was the highlight of the concerto.

Harpist Faye Seeman, who commissioned the concerto, gave a heartfelt and convincing interpretation. She was at all times in tune with the music, and her collaboration with Maestro Groner was flawless.

The highlight of the evening was a rendering of Felix Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 5 in D Major "Reformation." The symphony draws its name from the familiar chorale tune "Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott!" (A Mighty Fortress is Our God).

Rather than discuss each movement of the symphony, I'd prefer to view it as a whole. This is what I envisioned while listening to Groner’s interpretation, a single work from beginning to end. The piece is a masterful composition that, in spite of being a fairly early work, has survived public scrutiny and has risen to become one of Mendelssohn’s more well known and performed works.

The FVSO played this work extremely well. I was taken by the sound quality of the strings, as well as the articulate clarity of the winds and, especially, the brass. In the opening movement, the shimmering soft string passages were spine-tingling, and the dramatic ending by the entire orchestra sent the audience on its way with a feeling of gratitude and admiration for both music and performers.

In my years of writing for this ensemble, I must admit that this interpretation of Mendelssohn's Fifth may well be the finest symphonic performance I’ve heard by the FVSO to date.

- James Chaudoir
- Post Crescent Nov. 7



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