June 25, 2018
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Violinist Koh, BSO give dazzling performance in opening concert

By Judy Harrison, BDN Staff

The only word that comes close to describing the Bangor Symphony Orchestra’s concert Saturday is dazzling.

The orchestra opened its 116th season with a double play — a classical concert featuring guest violinist Jennifer Koh at the Collins Center for the Arts and a pops concert Sunday afternoon at Husson University’s Winkin Stadium with Motor Booty Affair.

While the free concert was a lovely end-of-the-summer gift to the community, it was Saturday’s performance that proved the BSO is moving beyond its history. The orchestra showed that it is on the cusp of becoming a sparkling gem in the artistic landscape located east of the Mississippi River.

A visiting soloist usually raises the bar for the orchestra. Koh hoisted it over her head and every member of the orchestra leapt to meet her passion and perfection under the leadership of conductor Lucas Richman.

Koh performed Max Bruch’s first violin concerto in G minor. It is his best-known piece, overshadowing all of his other works.

From the moment she strode onstage and tucked the 1727 Stradivari under her chin, Koh transfixed the audience. Some soloists embrace the music in a dance while others engage in a duet and a few duke it out with a composer.

Koh surrendered to the music. She did not play the notes, she absorbed them into the fiber of her being. The result was visceral and long-lasting.

The audience rose to its feet in a thundering cheer and demanded she return to the stage. She served up a too brief encore from Bach’s Partita No. 2 — a light, delicious dessert after a sumptuous meal.

After intermission, Richman led the orchestra through Brahms’ Symphony No. 1. It has been called a “symbolic journey from darkness to light” but Saturday night, it covered concertgoers in overwhelming joy.

Some of that was a carryover from Koh’s stunning performance that lingered long after she had left the stage to sign CDs in the lobby. She seemed to hover above the stage during the first two movements of the Brahms — a shimmering light that slowly faded, vanishing in a vapor.

Richman, with able assistance from Koh, led the orchestra to a level of professionalism it has been working toward since David Whitehill became executive director nearly four years ago.

The musicians beamed with pride at the conclusion of the concert. They, better than anyone else in the hall, knew what they had accomplished. And they, better than anyone, know that they cannot rest on their laurels, but must keep moving toward their goal of reaching perfection in every performance the way they did with Koh.

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