Springfield Symphony Orchestra thrills with Four Seasons, Beethoven

Mass Live

Some 1,867 concertgoers were galvanized Saturday evening by the Springfield Symphony Orchestra's supercharged reading of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony. They leaped to their feet and applauded vigorously and long, long enough for Maestro Kevin Rhodes to walk back into the orchestra, acknowledge all the principal winds and brass and give each player a bow.

Every aspect of Rhodes' and his colleagues' performance of the Seventh was designed to maximize the explosive energetic essence of the piece. They attacked the second movement with barely a moment's pause after the raucous cadence of the first, a very telling effect, moving instantly from the sunny A Major of the Vivace to the austere, chilling A minor of the Allegretto.

The scherzo galloped off at a clip a few clicks faster than Beethoven's metronome marking, and the finale plunged forward headlong with glorious abandon.

Rhodes balanced his forces so as to fully display the genius of Beethoven's use of the orchestra. The composer drenched the texture with the obsessive rhythmic nuggets from which he constructed each movement, strewing them through every register of the orchestra from the lofty, skirling winds, the bellowing high horns and crisply tongued trumpets, to the chromatic growl of the basses and cellos that anchored the first and fourth movements.

Rhodes also savored the work's few moments of serenity - the brief detours from the fast lane, respites from the heat of the chase - that strengthened all the more the ultimate effect of this most rhythmically relentless of Beethoven's symphonies.

Defying expectations, the symphony took opening position on Saturday's program, preceding Vivaldi's The Four Seasons in a bold programming move that both brilliantly showcased the orchestra and allowed all the wind and brass players a shorter evening, since the Vivaldi concerti are scored for solo violin and string orchestra with harpsichord.

Violinist Caroline Goulding returned to Symphony Hall as soloist in the Vivaldi, and offered an individual and thrilling interpretation of the beloved Baroque masterpiece. A lithe and emotive performer, Goulding made each movement of the four concertos dance. She entered fully into their virtuoso nature, tearing into the scales with an almost vengeful vigor, and relishing their introspective slow movements, ornamenting with taste and subtlety.

Both soloist and SSO string-players put a Baroque vibrato-less sound to good use, and all seemed to enjoy employing sul ponticello effects in the Winter concerto. Harpsichordist Gregory Hayes' skill as an elegant continuo player was exquisitely displayed in his lovely Adagio molto from the Autumn Concerto, and principal cellist Aristides Rivas completed the continuo ensemble with great sensitivity.
Read the rest of the review here