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Soloists shine as Fox Valley Symphony closes season

May 2, 2015

By James Chaudoir
Post Crescent

The final program of the Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra’s 2014-15 season featured an interesting selection of works, including a pair of concertos highlighting the talents of two of the orchestra’s principal players.

Mozart’s delightful overture to his comic opera “Cosi fan tutti” was the first work performed. The overture begins with a series of dramatic chords, interrupted by melodic passages played by the oboe, then moves to a spirited allegro, and finally an exciting close. In all, the piece was nicely played, setting the stage for the music to follow.

Concertmaster Yuliya Smead was soloist for Max Bruch’s masterful Concerto No. 1 in G minor for violin and orchestra. This demanding work, composed in three movements, is among the more highly celebrated of violin concertos from the Romantic era.

Smead’s performance of the concerto was indeed accomplished, as she demonstrated her refined musical skills in every aspect of the concerto, be it her interpretation of the magnificent theme as the concerto opens, or the virtuosic multiple stops heard in the outer movements.

I was particularly taken with her playing of the brief cadenza that closes the first movement, and then moves without pause to the second movement, with the gloriously lyrical main subject played by the solo violin. This was quite a moving moment.

In the finale, Smead showed her dexterity in playing multiple stops and rapid passages. At all times, she appeared to be in control of the music while performing in close consort with the orchestra. Her sound was rich, focused and consistently to the fore.

If there was a little “gem” hidden in this program it would be the Trumpet Concerto in D Major, by Georg Phillip Telemann. Soloist was principal trumpeter Michael Henckel.

This concerto, as most of Telemann’s concertos, was composed in four movements: slow-fast-slow-fast. The third movement was scored for strings and continuo alone.

My immediate impression with Henckel’s performance was the pure sweetness of his sound, and the ease at which he mastered the complexities of the high range of his instrument.

This was immediately made known in the stately first movement. The two fast movements, though somewhat similar, showed his skill executing the more demanding passages.

Franz Liszt’s revered tone poem “Les Preludes” closed the evening’s program. This is a beautiful, and smoothly flowing piece of music, filled with refined textures and rich orchestral sonorities. The main theme can be heard throughout the entire piece as it weaves itself from its slow development in the opening, while expanding into its full glory, through the stormy middle section, and finally to the triumphant conclusion.

The orchestra played this work extremely well. Once again, Maestro Brian Groner showed his mastery of the score, calling attention to every detail, while commanding the full attention of the players.

The audience truly enjoyed having the opportunity to hear orchestral principals perform as soloists. I would be remiss, however, by not mentioning other orchestra principals who had solo passages during the concert. These are flutist Linda Nielsen Korducki, oboist Jennifer Hodges Bryan, clarinetist Chris Zello, bassoonist Patricia Holland and hornist Bruce Atwell.

All played well, and very much deserved their solo bows after each piece. To me, this is one of the real strengths of the Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra — a solid cadre of gifted principals that form its musical foundation.

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