Symphony Review: TSO setting sail into summer

Mei-Ann Chen
Green Valley News

The Tucson Symphony Orchestra wrapped up its 2015-2016 Classic Series last weekend with a light and lyrical program titled “Sailing with Scheherazade.” It was a mostly familiar program and well-suited to an evening or afternoon in April.

The concert opened with the well-known “Moldau,” by Bedrich Smetana. Visiting conductor Mei-Ann Chen devoted most of her pre-concert talk to this piece, helping the audience to “hear” the flowing water of the river and the regenerating raindrops.

The orchestra was well modulated, with the exception of an excess of tuba, and responded to the energetic and enthusiastic conducting of Dr. Chen.

Although the opera “Peter Grimes” originated in 1945 by Benjamin Britten on a commission from Serge Koussevitzky, its “Four Sea Interludes” were the “modern” nod in the performance in contrast to the 19th century Romanticism of the other two pieces. They stand well by themselves as program pieces evocative of their titles — “Dawn,” “Sunday Morning,” “Moonlight” and “Storm.”

Typically, a composer’s own life and feelings cannot be separated from his/her work, so Grimes’ plea at the end of the opera: “What harbor shelters peace, Away from tidal waves, away from storms?” resonates with the composer’s own search for love and expiation. One of his last works was “Death in Venice.”

Early in Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s composing career, he was seen as having had “technical deficiencies,” but he certainly overcame them with the symphonic suite “Scheherazade.” The work shows clearly the impact of Eastern music on the composer, especially in the solo passages so professionally and lyrically performed by Concertmaster Lauren Roth and the oboe, bassoon, flute and clarinet principals.

While Conductor Chen referred to Rimsky-Korsakov’s “elegant economy” in her pre-curtain talk, the “Scheherazade” she moved TSO through was a strong and confident reading, by both the orchestra and of the work itself. That description might well have also been applied to “The Moldau.”
Read the rest of the review here