Thursday, May 24, 2018
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Soloists highlight evening at TSO

An entertaining program of musical showpieces greeted listeners last night as conductor Andrew Massey led the Toledo Symphony through music by William McDevitt, Dukas, Kodaly, and Rachmaninoff at the Toledo Museum of Art Peristyle. Pianist Jon Nakamatsu was soloist.

A last-minute replacement for Tian Ying, Nakamatsu stepped in to play Rachmaninoff's Third Piano Concerto. It is no easy task to perform such a imposing piece on short notice, but Nakamatsu, who played the work here in 1997, held his own. Certainly the audience, which leapt to its collective feet at work's end, thought so.

Indeed, one cannot help but like Nakamatsu. His stage persona is appealing and his technique formidable. That said, however, the playing was sometimes muddy. More disappointing still, Nakamatsu rarely articulated the full essence of the sonic and emotional landscapes.

The evening opened with The Millennium Overture, a work written by William McDevitt, a double bassist in the orchestra. From the title one might suspect that McDevitt was thinking big when he wrote this piece. And indeed, in his program notes he sites inspiration from medieval chant through 20th-century Impressionism. The approach made for an exuberant, if piecemeal, listening experience.

That caveat aside, programming the work was an excellent decision. One cannot help but be delighted that Toledo Symphony management is so supportive of the wide-ranging talents of its musicians.

A sparkling reading of Dukas' The Sorcerer's Apprentice followed. Massey's frolicsome, yet probing, interpretation gave the piece the same freshness it must have had at its 1897 premiere.

The orchestra also shone in Hungarian composer Zoltan Kodaly's Hary Janos Suite. Fine solos abounded, in particular principal violist Valentin Ragusitu. Scott Lang played cimbalom, a Hungarian hammered dulcimer.

The program will be repeated tonight at 8.

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