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Fox Valley Symphony concert presents a wealth of talent

Feb. 4, 2012

Written by: James Chaudoir for the Post Crescent

Saturday night's concert of the Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra was entitled "New Horizons" and featured two young and very talented performers who surely have a bright future.

Add to that a tribute to "Don Juan" and the stage was set for a wonderful evening of music.

But first, this year's winner of the Audience Music Selection Competition was performed. The "Preludium" movement of Dan Rager's "Millennium Suite" was the selected work. Steeped in 19th century romanticism, it provided a pleasant opener for the program.

It is always a thrill to hear young talent on the concert stage. Kitsho Hosotani and David Hou, both 11, charmed those in attendance with masterful skills of their instruments.

Master Hosotani, violinist, gave a technically driven interpretation of Saint-Saëns' "Introduction & Rondo Capriccioso." He clearly demonstrated a gifted command of the instrument, particularly his articulate precision in bowing. I was particularly taken with the arpeggiando section and its pristine clarity.

Following intermission, Master Hou, pianist, presented an extraordinarily mature rendition of Franz Liszt's "First Piano Concerto in E-flat." Not only did he master the numerous flourishes and scalar passages, along with the massive chords, but his touch in the lovely cantilena, "Quasi adagio," was sensitive and stylistic, and clearly defined his musicianship.

Why program an overture in the middle of the second half? Here begins our tribute to Don Juan, or in Mozart’s case, Don Giovanni. I've heard the final two pieces on the program many times, but never in such close proximity. It makes sense.

From the chilling opening chords of the Overture to the opera Don Giovanni, Mozart sets the mood of the tale he is about to tell; such darkness, impending doom. This is followed by a sprightly Allegro which, typical of Mozart's writing, puts all to the test. The orchestra performed with great skill and attention to detail, and truly gave Mozart the representation he rightfully deserves.

But wait, the best was saved for last.

There are only a handful of compositions that sit at the pinnacle of the orchestral repertory.

"Don Juan" by Richard Strauss is one of those works. Though not overly long in duration, this piece tests the musicianship of every member of the orchestra, and demands an absolute understanding of the score by the conductor. In all aspects, the FVSO proved its worth with their stunning interpretation of this piece.

From the fiery opening, through the lyrical solos, to the heroic horn calls, to the final pizzicato notes in the strings, it was music executed at the highest level. As one has come to expect, Brian Groner had this magnum opus securely in his grasp. Strauss displays many different music personalities throughout the single-movement work. Each section moved effortlessly from one to the next under Groner's eloquent gestures.

It's not often we get to hear live performances of this work, especially with a regional orchestra. Saturday night, Maestro Groner and the orchestra members truly gave a spectacular musical gift to its audience, and clearly proved that they were up to the task.

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