The Bangor Symphony Orchestra on Sunday afternoon transported the audience at the Collins Center for the Arts from trepidation over the impending blizzard to tranquility with its nearly perfect performance of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade.”
Under the direction of Lucas Richman’s baton, the players brought the tale-spinning Arabian bride and her sultan to life in one of the richest performances the orchestra has given under this conductor’s leadership.
The Russian composer was inspired by “The Arabian Nights” in which the sultan of Scharhriar puts each of his wives to death after his first night with them. The exception is Scheherazade, who tells him such intriguing tales with cliffhanger endings that he delays her execution night after night until he falls in love with her.
The piece requires a full orchestra with about 70 musicians onstage including four percussionists and a harpist. After last month’s lovely concert with a chamber orchestra that used half as many players, it was delightful to see the stage jammed with musicians and to hear the orchestra at full volume. “Scheherazade,” the closing piece in Sunday’s concert, also allowed individual musicians to shine in the solos.
First performed 1889 in St. Petersburg, “Scheherazade” is unified by violin solos representing the tale-spinning bride that introduce three of the four movements. Concertmaster Trond Saeverud gave the woman a passionate determination that transfixed the audience and captured concertgoers’ imaginations. It was a delicate and stunning performance.
Other soloists, including Benjamin Fox on oboe, Kristen Finkbeiner on clarinet, Wren Saunders on bassoon, Megan Marranca on the French horn and Bill Whitener on trumpet, were equally mesmerizing. Percussionists Cindy Bastide, Mark Fredericks, John Mehrmann and Billy Miller played supporting but pivotal roles in Rimsky-Korsakov’s suite.
The concert began with the Overture to Mozart’s opera “The Magic Flute.” Guest soloist Sergei Babayan, born in Armenia and trained in his native country and in Russia, he performed Frederic Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor.
In his introduction to the concert, Richman described the concerto as “a love letter” from piano to orchestra. Babayan performed it with skill and devotion. His style of playing is less showy than most American-trained pianist who have performed with the BSO but Babayan captured all the passion Chopin poured into the piece.
Sunday’s concert showed that under Richman’s direction, the BSO has overcome completely its tendency to run out of gas after intermission and give lackluster performances. The orchestra gave such a passionate and sincere interpretation of “Scheherazade” that concertgoers left the Collins Center feeling more ready to face the coming blizzard than those who weren’t in the audience.
Each season, Richman raises the bar for the musicians and concertgoers by selecting challenging yet satisfying music. So far, orchestra members have soared over it and the audience has risen to its feet and applauded long and hard in appreciation.
The Bangor Symphony Orchestra’s annual pop concert will be The Music of Star Wars at 7:30 p.m. March 4 and at 3 p.m. March 5. For tickets call 1-800-622-TIXX or visit bangorsymphony.org.