A subdued but appreciative audience welcomed soloist Gilad Karni to the Collins Center for the Arts stage on Sunday afternoon in a concert with the Bangor Symphony Orchestra, led by Maestro Lucas Richman. While there were several high points throughout the performance, it was not one of the more memorable concerts the BSO has given in recent months.
Karni, undoubtedly a gifted and passionate viola player, poured himself into a little-known viola concerto by Hungarian-American composer Miklos Rozsa. It is truly rewarding to hear the viola played in such a forceful way — its earthy, resonant voice rang throughout the auditorium. The concerto started strong, with a foreboding and powerful first movement followed by a lively scherzo. Rozsa, known primarily as a film composer for Alfred Hitchcock and the film “Ben-Hur,” naturally has a cinematic edge, and Karni and Richman capitalized on that, appropriately focusing on the dynamics. The energy began to lag halfway through, during the rather draggy adagio, though it’s up to the listener themselves to decide whether that was because Rozsa’s concerto is itself uneven or because the audience was simply unfamiliar with it.
The concert opened with a surprise performance of Brahms’ “Hungarian Dance No. 5,” an extremely well known and utterly delightful bit of music that was a replacement — no reason was given — for Liszt’s “Hungarian Rhapsody No. 5.” The centerpiece, a performance of Tchaikovsky’s fourth symphony, was in line with the BSO’s take on the Rosza concerto — heavily dependent on dynamics. The middle movements, the andantino and the scherzo, are vastly different dynamically speaking, with the first being slower-paced and more mournful and the second being a lively movement played almost solely with plucked strings. During the scherzo, one half expected to see Bugs Bunny running across the stage. The first and final movements were as exciting as they are meant to be, with bold, bright fanfares from the brass section — in particular the finale, which surely roused some concert-goers still sleepy from losing an hour of sleep due to daylight saving time.
Perhaps, as regular BSO concert-goers, we’re spoiled, after such phenomenal performances as Holst’s “The Planets,” and Jennifer Koh’s season opener. Richman sets the bar so high that when another concert doesn’t quite reach it, we’re a little disappointed. But no matter — it’s easy to feel confident that that bar will be reached again quite soon.