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Published: Saturday, 1/16/2010

Seasoned soloists stand out


For fans of chamber music a la Toledo Symphony, this was the week that was.

Launched Sunday with the third Blade Chamber Series concert, a marvel of fine small-group music making, a most fitting climax was presented last night in the Peristyle during the Classics IV performance.

Four was the lucky number for this creatively programmed concert, presented to the largest audience of the season for this series.

A quartet of wonderfully balanced soloists performed the solo parts for Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 with subtle and sensitive support from a pared-down string orchestra plus harpsichord.

Thaddeus Archer, flawless on the piccolo trumpet, was the clarion note punctuating this colorful foursome that also comprised principal oboist Kimberly Bryden Loch, concertmaster Kirk Toth, and recorder virtuoso David Dyer.

Certainly the most energetic and richly textured of all the six Brandenburgs by the German composer, No. Two came across as musically incandescent, an endless shifting wash of musical colors and textures in Baroque style with a timeless and compelling complexity.

Four times two added up to a lively ensemble for the Stravinsky Octet, a three-act musical drama bursting with rhythm, scraps of wild melody, and plenty of pizzazz.

Players were Amy Heritage, flute; Georg Klaas, clarinet; Joan Weiler and Kathleen Shanklin, bassoons; Garth Simmons and Daniel Harris, trombones, and Lauraine Carpenter and Mel Harsh, trumpets.

Still, the capstone of this wonderful evening was the creative presentation of Vivaldi's Four Seasons, a perennial favorite of four short but evocative concerti created from a larger work to celebrate, well, spring, summer, autumn, and winter.

Each of the four top violinists in the orchestra took a solo turn for one season and each made that season his or her own.

Assistant principal second violin Rita Lammers created a delicate effect performing spring, the tenderest and most diffident of the seasons.

Principal second violin Merwin Siu generated lots of sizzle with a freewheeling, highly ornamented version of summer that let out a lot of the symphony artistic administrator's hidden rock star.

The richness of the harvest was confidently extolled by assistant concertmaster Naomi Guy through a gutsy yet romantic reading of autumn. Finally, busy Toth brought to life the austerity and brilliance of winter - you could almost hear the ice crack and the icicles drip.

Year-round, the chamber strings and keyboardist Valrie Kantorski provided such sensitive and astute support as to become co-conspirators with each soloist in order.

Bravo to all for a magnificent reinvigoration of this beloved work.

How ironic that the Peristyle, so often bemoaned as a dry and unflattering venue for the full orchestra, should prove to be so complementary to the smaller groups performing. In performance, the delicacy of bowing and nuanced dynamics spoke clearly.

WGTE FM-91 classical music director Brad Cresswell introduced each season sonorously by reading the poems which had inspired the Venetian composer so long ago.

The Toledo Symphony Classics IV concert will repeat at 8 p.m. today in the Peristyle. Tickets are $22 to $50 at toledosymphony.com or 419-246-8000.

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