Salisbury Symphony rises to the challenge
BY SARAH HALL firstname.lastname@example.org
The Salisbury Symphony Orchestra presented one of their most daunting performances to date the evening of Jan. 24 as Music Director David Hagy gave the musicians a test of endurance and technique, ó and they rose to the challenge.
There had been some consternation prior to the concert because the performance was taking place the same night as the Waterworks Gallery’s Oyster Roast, their major fundraiser, forcing potential concert goers to choose between these two events. But a large and enthusiastic audience was on hand in Keppel auditorium in spite of the scheduling conflict.
The concert opened with the brass and percussion performing the optimistic and heroic “Fanfare for the Common Man” by Aaron Copland.
The unisons and open intervals in the work require exact intonation and balance, and the players’ skill was tested further by the way they were arranged, spread throughout the hall, exposed both visually and aurally. The low brass and percussion were at the rear of the stage, the French horns divided on either side of the proscenium and the trumpets in the balcony.
Thus the audience was treated to “surround sound,” as Hagy’s baton kept it all in synchrony.
The fanfare was thrilling and well-executed until the intonation of the final sustained chord, when the high registers and fortissimo dynamic threatened to mar the otherwise sterling performance. Fortunately, the chord was released before it could stray too far afield, as the orchestra segued into the next work, Charles Ives’ “The Unanswered Question,” without pausing for applause.
Ives, remarkably ahead of his time, called this 1906 composition a “cosmic drama.” The strings perform a gentle chorale, blissfully unperturbed by a solo trumpet that interrupts their reverie from time to time with an enigmatic motif, asking an unanswerable question.
Since trumpeter Luke Boudreault remained in the balcony following the Copland, these proclamations sailed out over the heads of the audience, launched toward the stage, setting a group of winds scurrying in search of an answer. These replies become more and more agitated until the woodwinds finally scream in anger.
The trumpet asked the question one more time, and was met by silence. At least until applause broke the spell.
For the centerpiece of the concert, Edward Elgar’s Cello Concerto, Hagy didn’t have to search any farther than his own orchestra to find a soloist capable of tackling the virtuosic work.
Principal cellist Anne Sellitti has played with the Salisbury Symphony for 20 years, and she proved Saturday night how fortunate the symphony is to have her.She conveyed the somber beauty and pathos of the piece with conviction and navigated the work’s difficult passages, even the second movement’s treacherous sautillé, with confidence, earning a well-deserved standing ovation.
The second half of the program consisted entirely of Copland’s massive Third Symphony.
This demanding work requires orchestra musicians to utilize the full range of their instruments and pushes them to the limits of endurance. But the Salisbury Symphony sailed through with flying colors.
The brass section handled the lip-busting score with confidence and grandeur. The woodwinds were precise and euphonious, as were the strings. The violins were especially impressive in their handling of the stratospheric reaches they were called upon to climb.
And the percussion punctuated it all with just the right amounts of subtlety or emphasis, depending on the need.
The Copland symphony required one of the largest orchestras ever assembled on the Keppel stage. There were expanded brass and woodwind sections, two harps, and keyboards, about 85 musicians in all, and each responsible for the marvelously full and rich sound that filled the hall under Maestro Hagy’s guiding hand.
Since the Copland symphony utilizes the theme of Fanfare for the Common Man, this provided a cyclical form to the concert. And the combination of Copland’s stunning treatment of the theme along with the Salisbury Symphony’s mastering of the arrangement resulted in a rousing and satisfying match.
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