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W. Gerald Cochran: ‘Elegance, Charm, & Drama’ symphony review

By W. Gerald Cochran, M.D.

The Salisbury Symphony presented a spectacular concert on Saturday, November 9th in the Keppel Auditorium of Catawba College entitled “Elegance, Charm, and Drama,” and elegant, charming, and dramatic it was. Featuring the Salisbury Symphony under the direction of Maestro David Hagy, the program consisted of grand and dramatic works by Tchaikovsky, Ibert, and Beethoven.

Opening the program was the very elegant Serenade for strings in C Major, Op. 48 by Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893). The serenade, for string orchestra, is in four movements, with the first an imitation of Mozart’s sonatina style. Tchaikovsky wanted this to be as grand as possible, writing many double stops for the violins and violas, producing towering chords. He also wanted the orchestra to be as large as possible. The second movement is a lilting waltz, followed by an elegy in the third movement. The final movement is a fast dance that then returns to the grandeur of the stately chorale of the first movement for a very elegant close. The orchestra attacked this work with great verve and a wonderful lushness that was just what the composer wanted, and brought about great beauty of sound, for a superb performance.

At the end of the concert was the great drama that is Ludwig van Beethoven’s (1770-1827) Symphony No. 1 in C Major, Op. 26. Haydn, with 104 symphonies, and then Mozart, with 41 symphonies, developed and codified the form of the classical symphony. After these were all completed, along came Beethoven in 1800, breaking the norms set forth by his predecessors, and showing his independence in composition, by opening his first symphony with not the tonic chord, but a dominant seventh chord. This was shocking! He went on in all four movements with multiples surprise of changes in tempo, changes in volume, and other unorthodox things. And this was just his first symphony. Think about what the remaining eight would accomplish over the next 25 years. In in any event, it was very a dramatic performance, and the orchestra was full of life and spirit and drama that Beethoven had intended.

The star of the show what was came in the middle – Anthony Trionfo playing the solo part in Jacque Ibert’s (1890-1962) Flute Concerto, Op. 37. Jacques Ibert was a French composer who wrote music that was intended to entertain. His output included operas, ballets, and stage and film music. His flute concerto is considered to be one of his most effective works. The first movement contains multiple brilliant, ornate passages for the flute, alternating with quiet melodic themes. The second movement is sweet and lush, while the third is lively, even jazzy, with daring leaps and racing scales, putting the soloist to the test.

Mr. Trionfo was certainly up to the test, and then some. The performance was nothing less than spectacular, full of energy, and with great virtuosity, and prodigious talent. The difficult passages did not seem to faze him, and the soft, sweet passages were gorgeous. Clad in a gold-sequined jacket, not only does he play his flute, but he dances with it throughout the performance, providing a very entertaining musical experience. We must not forget to recognize the orchestra and its excellent collaboration in a very difficult piece. They performed with extraordinary skill.

Anthony Trionfo has received both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Colburn Conservatory of Music in Los Angeles. He has won First Prize at the 2016 Young Concert Artists International Auditions and has won multiple additional prizes and awards. He has performed with multiple orchestras as soloist, and with many chamber music groups.

I had the privilege of having dinner with Mr. Trionfo after this concert and found him to be very engaging and inspiring. His main interest is in bringing music, in whatever form, to people so that they can hear and enjoy it. In addition to community engagement, he is also interested in teaching and education. No doubt, this young man will go far. We look forward to having him back as a guest of the Salisbury Symphony in the future.

 

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