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The Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra opens its 45th season

Oct. 1, 2011

The Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra opened its 45th season with a challenging program of music under the superb direction of Maestro Brian Groner.

The selected pieces, new to the audience, and the manner in which they were played, were both appealing and enjoyable.

The first half of the program featured two works of Erich Korngold, known primarily for his Hollywood film scores. His mastery of the film genre was immediately heard in his "Overture to The Sea Hawk."

After opening with a bright fanfare, the overture moves to a broad and romantically lyrical section. It was here where the strings came to the fore. Their playing was both unified and expressive. A return of the opening fanfare brought the piece to a close.

The second work by Korngold was his "Violin Concerto in D major," performed by guest soloist Philippe Quint. This was Quint's return visit to the FVSO, having played with the orchestra in May of 2010. Korngold's concerto is both lyrical and technical and seemed tailor made for Quint.

The film world carried over into this concerto as Korngold borrowed from himself, and used a number of themes that had appeared in earlier film scores. Romanticism radiated throughout the three movements — slow-slow-fast. Add to that extensive technical demands for the soloist, and a work well worth hearing was created.

Quint's skill in the higher passages was particularly noteworthy. Rising above the strains of the orchestra he creates a crystalline pure sound, rich in tone, and capable of traveling far into the concert hall. This was called upon more than once, as Korngold utilized an extensive range of the violin.

Quint's bowing technique was on full display in the cadenza, placed early in the first movement.

Impeccably played with distinct articulation, it set a dramatic contrast to lyricism that was predominant in the first two movements.

The final movement was wonderfully orchestrated with great use of subtlety and color. Both Quint's and the orchestra's playing was deliberate and controlled. This concerto is a work filled with stunningly beautiful and technically demanding passages, all performed to their heights by soloist and orchestra.

The second half consisted of a single work, Bela Bartok's monumental "Concerto for Orchestra." A masterwork of 20th-century orchestral literature, this composition places demands on the conductor and performers like few others.

In a word, the orchestra's performance of the concerto was stunning. Each player was up to the task and adhered closely to Groner's precise interpretation.

Groner was in his element with Bartok's work. His choice of tempos, nuance, and balance brought the score to life on stage. He was always in absolute control. I was taken with his minimal conducting gestures and fluid movements as he cued and combined each orchestral choir.

Scored in five movements, Bartok utilizes folk tunes, fugal gestures, lyricism, solos, duets, broad chordal sounds, rapid scalar passages and a well placed humorous parody; a multiplex of musical personalities.

Each of the principals of the orchestra had a solo passage; none were weak. Each section of the orchestra had an opportunity to come to the fore and display their primary role in the ensemble; all excelled. The orchestra as a whole never let up. They met the challenge of Bartok's music and succeeded.

Great leadership; great following; perhaps the best I have ever heard this orchestra play.

- James Chaudoir
For The Post-Crescent

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