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Fox Valley Symphony Opens Strong

Oct. 6, 2012

The Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra kicked off its 46th season with two diverse, yet demanding concert pieces. Once again, music director Brian Groner selected music to feature the skills of his players, much to the enjoyment to those in the audience.

The program opened with Franz Schubert's "Der Wanderer Fantasy," as arranged for piano and orchestra by Franz Liszt. The fantasy is a single-movement piece in four distinct sections much in the character of movements. Andreas Klein was soloist.

A bright, unmistakably Schubertian opening sets the tone for the piece. From Klein’s first entry throughout the entire fantasy, he played with articulate clarity while displaying expressive technique and craftsmanship.

I was particularly taken with his voicing in the slow, second section, one of two solo passages that featured Klein. The ensemble between orchestra and soloist was excellent, providing an uninterrupted flow from beginning to end.

Perhaps the most exciting moment was the return of the opening theme in the final section, scored in fugal imitation propelling the fantasy to its grandiose conclusion, where one could not help but hear Liszt's impact on the work.

Anton Bruckner's magnificent Symphony No. 4 in E-flat Major filled the second half of the program. Arguably, the fourth could be his most well known and admired of all his symphonies, if not only for its subtitle, "Romantic."

The opening horn call, beginning simply with the descending interval of a Perfect 5th and returning upwards, provides the temperament of the entire symphony. This simple, key motif is expanded upon, set in fanfare, incorporated in lyrical themes, a spirited scherzo, and the rousing conclusion.

Principal hornist Bruce Atwell played this intriguing solo with all the composure it demands, as well as the numerous other solo passages for horn throughout the symphony. As with Bruckner symphonies, the brass section is called upon for extensive duty, a challenge easily met by FVSO brass players.

Scored in four movements, Bruckner follows classical form in its structure: opening allegro, lyrical adagio, scherzo with trios and finale. One can quickly detect his familiarity with form and function as melodies continuously unfold. Where he moves away from classicism is with his harmonic language. This, more than anything, offers a treat, if not the occasional curiosity, for listeners.

Another way he departs from classicism is the segmented manner in which he composes his movements. To make the sections even more obvious, Bruckner scores in short measured silences, or pauses as a means to heighten the dramatic effect of neighboring sections, draw particular attention to what is about to happen, or simply as the element of surprise.

Perhaps the most unifying element of this work is the way in which themes re-occur in more than one movement, especially noted in the final movement. This goes beyond the importance of the opening motif.

Groner's direction, and the orchestra's playing, was powerful, accomplished, and most important of all, musical. As this writer has said before, Groner is at his best when faced with a large scale, and demanding symphonic work. This is undoubtedly the case with the Brucker Fourth, and once again, Maestro Groner didn't disappoint, and came through presenting the audience with an authoritative rendering. He was at all times in command of the orchestra who, with much precision, followed even the most minute of gestures from his baton.

In all, the Bruckner was well interpreted, well played, well programmed, and well received by the audience. Season 46 is off to a thrilling start.

- James Chaudoir, Post Crescent

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