When it premiered in the mid-1940s, near the end of World War II, Aaron Copland’s landmark ballet composition, “Appalachian Spring,” was embraced by the American public. Nearly 70 years later, the piece retains its power, beauty and broad appeal, judging by the reaction of the audience Sunday at the Collins Center for the Arts, when the Bangor Symphony Orchestra performed that piece at its fourth masterworks concert of the 2013-14 season.
Maestro Lucas Richman admitted from the podium that he was still buzzing after conducting such a composition from one of his favorite composers. Richman wrought great dynamic tension from his orchestra — the soft, sweet murmuring from the strings that begins and ends the piece, the fanfares that punctuate the stillness, the folk song that brightens the middle movements, and of course, the heartbreakingly American melody known to so many as “Simple Gifts,” which showcased Bangor Symphony Orchestra’s woodwind section to great effect.
The rest of the first half of the concert, however, belonged to the French horn — soloist Richard Todd performed with the Bangor Symphony Orchestra the world premiere of composer W. Mark Harrell’s new Concerto for Horn and Orchestra, a work dedicated to the spirit of friendship, and to Todd, Harrell and Richman’s friend, the gifted horn player Calvin Smith, who died in 2011. Todd is a virtuoso horn player and brought gravitas and smooth, silken tone to Harrell’s premiere. Bangor Symphony Orchestra horn players Scott Burditt and Ken Miller complimented Todd’s performance.
The audience gave a standing ovation, to which Todd reacted by playing with the Bangor Symphony Orchestra his own arrangement of Eden Abhez’s jazz standard, “Nature Boy,” giving a spine-tingling, swoon-worthy performance.
The second half of the concert was devoted to Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6, the pastoral, one of the lightest and loveliest of his symphonies, full of birdsong, babbling brooks and interesting weather patterns. Though Maine is in the final weeks of one of the coldest winters in recent years, through Beethoven’s evocative symphony, the Bangor Symphony Orchestra gave light to the promise of spring.
The Bangor Daily News is a sponsor of the Bangor Symphony Orchestra.