Energy crisis? Not at this sold-out BSO concert

Posted Nov. 03, 2008, at 6:55 p.m.

Sunday afternoon’s sold-out Bangor Symphony Orchestra concert was full of youthful energy, as three talented soloists performed a program of pieces all composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

The star of the show, naturally, was Bangor High School alumna Ashley Emerson, who appeared on the Peakes Auditorium stage as a teenager, under the tutelage of BHS choral director George Redman. This time around, she was visiting from New York City, where she’s a student in the prestigious Lindemann Young Artist Development Program at the Metropolitan Opera. The soprano sang three pieces — two from Mozart’s unfinished opera “Zaide,” as well as his “Alleluia” from “Exsultate, Jubilate.”

The sensation of hometown pride in the audience was palpable; you could almost feel her family, friends and old classmates beaming at her. It’s been said before, but it’s worth repeating: It has both astonishing and delightful to hear such a powerful voice come from such a small person. By turns sweet, defiant and sensual, Emerson has the deep, gutsy sense of urgency that lends any opera singer an air of dramatic authenticity. If the saying “big things come in small packages” has any truth to it, then Emerson is well on her way to a long, successful career in opera.

That is certainly not to say that the other two soloists, violinist Michi Wiancko and violist Jennifer Stumm, did not equally impress. The two took the spotlight during a lively performance of Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante in E flat major, K. 364. They made a striking pair, with Wiancko in a lanky black dress and Stumm in a snappy white suit. The complex machinations of the composition raced along, like a particularly intricately plotted film, arriving at an arresting third movement. Wiancko and Stumm played with great technical aplomb and seemed to share in a sense of fun and excitement.

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The question hanging in the air before the concert — what will the BSO do now, with the sudden departure of Maestro Xiao-Lu Li? — was laid to rest by words from BSO president Samuel Lanham and executive director David Whitehill. They informed the audience that two conductors would take over the December “Nutcracker” performances with the Robinson Ballet and the February Beethoven concert — Benjamin Makino of the Washington National Opera and Lucas Richmond, current director of the Knoxville Symphony in Tennessee, respectively.

BSO concertmaster and interim conductor Trond Saeverud, who nimbly jumped to the podium and led the orchestra that afternoon, allayed any other questions. Saeverud, who leads the Passamaquoddy Bay Symphony Orchestra in Washington County, conducted the concert with vigor and humor. During the BSO’s spirited take on the popular Serenade No. 13 for strings in G major, commonly known as “Eine kleine Nachtmusik,” he managed to both perform and conduct. We are lucky to have someone of Saeverud’s skill and good nature in our community, who can so effortlessly take on multiple responsibilities on such short notice. It’s a testament to his vast talents.

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