Conductor William Eddins blew into town on a wind from the west for the first of two Classics VII concerts by the Toledo Symphony last night in the Toledo Museum of Art Peristyle.
In his debut with the orchestra, he breathed fresh air into an old war horse - Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony - and had that nag (and the audience's toes) dancing. He also made strong impressions leading works by Maurice Ravel and Pierre Mercure.
Over all, Eddins, now music director of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, brought out the best of Toledo's orchestra and clearly won over its audience.
Mining the ultraromantic 1888 Tchaikovsky work for undiscovered gems, Eddins was relentless in digging into every single section and discovering treasure. The symphony responded handsomely, producing a sumptuous string sound and delivering a balanced and nuanced performance.
Eddins set his tempi on the slow side, especially in the opening movements. Working without a score, he emphasized emotion and richness and deftly highlighted small but significant solos as well as delicious passages.
The program included another dynamite surprise in the first half, when Eddins turned his back on most of the orchestra to conduct Ravel's Concerto in G Major from the keyboard. From the opening clap in the percussion section to the final dynamic chords, this complex and varied 1932 work was irresistible.
Ravel was inspired by composers from Mozart to Stravinsky to American jazz, creating three distinctive movements and a dazzling array of textures and colors, juxtaposed with daring and originality. The first section was a romp of astounding variety and style imbued with grace and elan by Eddins and the orchestra. The second movement was a cool drink of water after that, an elongated and mysterious line laid over a steady waltz tempo.
So well integrated are the solo and orchestra parts, and so effortlessly did Eddins shift from keyboard to conducting, and a few times he did do both, that the ensemble effect was stunning. The orchestra responded to minimal direction and captured every subtle tempo shift or color change. The overall performance was that of an exquisite collaboration in every way.
The concert opened with Mercure's programmatic 1950s Kaleidoscope, a progression of shards of texture and color inspired by the mirrored toy.
This concert will repeat at 8 tonight in the Peristyle. Tomorrow, Eddins will return to the Peristyle at 3 p.m. to perform solo piano works in an Artists Up Close recital. Tickets are $10.
Contact Sally Vallongo