October 22, 2018
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‘Pines of Rome’ big finish makes up for lackluster performance by BSO on rest of program

Jeff Kirlin/Bangor Symphony Orchestra | File
Jeff Kirlin/Bangor Symphony Orchestra | File
Lucas Richman is the conductor of the Bangor Symphony Orchestra.

Maestro Lucas Richman relishes a big finish.

He gave that to concertgoers Sunday in the Bangor Symphony Orchestra’s final performance of its 122nd Season with “Pines of Rome.” The musicians seemed to save their energy and passion for this piece. They gave short shrift to the rest of the program of Italian composers.

Ottorino Resphighi’s “Pines of Rome” requires nearly 90 musicians. It is a huge undertaking. The musicians embraced that challenge the way some extreme hikers attack Mt. Katahdin.

The piece requires a keyboard, organ, harp and celeste, a small percussion instrument that resembles an upright piano with metal bars struck by small felt hammers. At least five percussionists are needed and then there are the buccinae, ancient Roman war trumpets, that require six trumpeters, who on Sunday, played more modern instruments. There is also a pre-recorded sound of a nightingale trilling at the end of the third movement.

The orchestra, under Richman’s dynamic direction, blew the audience out of the Collins Center for the Arts and into the forests of ancient Rome with this piece. It was a stunning musical experience that concertgoers will long remember.

The first half of Sunday’s concert, which featured the overture to “The Barber of Seville,” by Gioachino Rossini, and the Violin Concerto in D Major by Ferruccio Busoni were dull compared to the vibrant second half.

The musicians gave a lackluster performance of the overture of one of the most famous operas in the world that features some of the most recognized musical themes.

Busoni’s violin concerto is rarely performed because it is downright weird. A champion of microtonality and electronic music, the piece, although played by an orchestra, sometimes sounded as if it was composed by a computer.

Guest violinist Frank Almond played it with virtuosity but the music itself is off putting.

The orchestra began the second half of the concert with “Capriccio Sinfonico,” an early work by Giacomo Puccini that foreshadows his masterpiece, “La Boheme.” The musicians played as if they were warming up for “Pines of Rome” but without much enthusiasm.

Sunday’s uneven performance by the BSO was unusual for this season or any other since Richman took over as conductor in 2010.

Next season will feature the works of Leonard Bernstein in celebration of his 100th birthday on Aug. 25.

The Bangor Symphony Orchestra will perform a pops concert at 8 p.m. June 30 in Kingfield. For information, call 942-5555 or visit bangorsymphony.org.

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