Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra stirs emotions with Berlioz, Prokofiev and more

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Sure, sure, music hath charms, but it also has powers — to stir emotions and/or imagination. 

Guest conductor Joshua Weilerstein joined members of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra in a crisp thoughtful performance of Hector Berlioz’s “Symphonie Fantastique” in Uihlein Hall Friday evening, sending the imagination into overdrive. 

Berlioz wrote “Symphonie Fantastique,” which he subtitled “Episode in an Artist’s Life,” in 1830, in the throes of an infatuation with an actress. Those feelings would eventually lead to their marriage, which in turn would fail. But in 1830, their relationship existed only in his mind. 

Weilerstein and the orchestra gave a beautifully crafted rendering of the symphony, using vivid instrumental colors to paint evocative musical scenes, and taking time within the overarching tempos of the piece’s five movements to isolate ideas and underscore their importance. 

Beautifully played solos within the ensemble were also part of this artful mix, including a particularly lovely conversation between the onstage English horn and offstage oboe.    

Violinist Karen Gomyo joined Weilerstein and the orchestra with an engrossing, pristinely executed performance of Sergei Prokofiev’s Concerto No. 1 for Violin and Orchestra. 

Gomyo brought an enormous palette of colors and textures to her performance, from seamless, ethereal sounds in the opening sections to pure, muted sounds, snapping pizzicato sounds and crisp, decisive rhythms. 

Despite the active, sometimes frenetic qualities of the music, Gomyo played with absolute precision and complete command, without any sense of tension crossing the footlights. Her playing was constantly laser-focused and decisive, but never aggressive or shrill. 
Read the rest of the review here