Violinist, guest conductor stand out at BSO show

Posted Nov. 09, 2009, at 5:25 p.m.

One powerful violinist, one dynamic conductor and the intrepid Bangor Symphony Orchestra. All the ingredients for an exciting, challenging afternoon of music, which is exactly what was had at the BSO concert last Sunday at the Collins Center for the Arts in Orono. Conductor David Amado, one of the five finalists for the music director position for the BSO, and violinist Tai Murray were guests with the orchestra.

The concert began with the announcement of a switch-around of the program: the Faure and Stravinsky pieces instead were to start the show, followed by the Beethoven. While Faure’s “Pavane” is certainly very elegant and pretty, it perhaps wasn’t the best way to begin the concert. It felt draggy and too slow; at least, compared to the Stravinsky and Beethoven to follow.

The Stravinsky brought the energy level back up. The BSO performed the bouncy suite adapted from his ballet “Pulcinella,” which ranges from the provincial-sounding Overture movement to the conversational Scherzino and playful Gavotte. It’s a witty, sly piece of music from Stravinsky, who turned baroque and folk rhythms and melodies upside-down throughout the ballet.

Special credit must be given to, in all honesty, the entire wind section. The “Pulcinella” suite is one of the more difficult pieces for wind instruments that the BSO has performed in recent memory, and while there were occasional bits of muddiness, overall they captured the densely orchestrated yet mischievous vibe.

During much of the Stravinsky, Amado grinned broadly and sometimes stamped his feet at particularly exciting moments. It is obvious that he greatly enjoys conducting, in addition to being very good at it. Stylistically and rhythmically, the Stravinsky was all over the map, but Amado led the BSO through the sometimes rapid-fire tempo and time changes with confidence — even mining some of the quirkier moments for humor, a rare event at a classical music concert. The bass and trombone duet near the end of the piece was particularly amusing.

The Beethoven concerto made up the second half of the concert, with soloist Tai Murray replacing under-the-weather soloist Stefan Jackiw at the last minute. Murray more than filled his shoes — her delicate, birdlike fingers traced the sometimes sinuous, sometimes forceful lines with ease. Her glissandos were as slinky as her fabulous pink dress. It was a powerful performance, and it brought the audience to their feet twice: once, spontaneously, in between the second and third movements, and again at the end.

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