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Published: Saturday, 3/25/2006

Toledo's Tipton goes pop on a light program

BY STEVEN CORNELIUS
BLADE MUSIC CRITIC

Back when Arthur Fiedler led the Boston Pops, that orchestra had a mission. Light classical and popular music was the sell, but the idea was to educate and raise musical awareness. Fiedler wanted to show that symphonies by Mozart and Beethoven were easily digestible, even by an audience new to classical music.

Programs were split. Classical standards were followed by lighter works, maybe something from the cinema or jazz repertoire. The idea worked. Patrons lured to a pops concert often turned up later to hear more serious fare.

Toledo Symphony resident conductor Chelsea Tipton II seems to have taken Fiedler s formula to heart, but is applying it with less discretion. His classical concerts almost invariably have a pops feel.

Last night s Peristyle concert to be repeated tonight featured light works by Richard Strauss as well as Tchaikovsky s 1812 Overture (powered by musicians from the GLASSMEN Drum & Bugle Corps). Karen Gomyo performed Prokofiev s Violin Concerto No. 1 in D Major.

The program opened with Strauss Till Eulenspiegel s Merry Pranks, a swashbuckling affair with melodies changing almost as quickly as scenes in an Errol Flynn adventure movie. It s fun to play and fun to hear, though it was a bit stodgy and humorless last night.

Also by Strauss was his lumbering Festival Prelude from 1913, a piece that generates plenty of sound but not much interest. Last night s performance was a Toledo Symphony premiere; waiting another 90 years for that event would have been fine.

The great Russian violinist Jascha Heifetz once remarked that a violinist must have the concentration of a bull fighter. The talented Gomyo appears to have that, but also seems to have garnered some of that profession s brutality. Her playing is harsh, often just plain petulant. Whatever happened to beauty?

Contrasting last night s sold-out house with last week s mostly empty hall for maestro Valery Gergiev and the Kirov Orchestra suggests that Tipton may be on to something with his programming. But that is not necessarily a good thing. Gergiev offered musical main courses while Tipton seems happy to serve only dessert. Gergiev has a mission. What is Tipton s?

Contact Steven Cornelius at: scornelius@theblade.com or 419-724-6152.



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