Pulsating, swirling, blaring, and wailing, the Toledo Symphony Orchestra wound up its 2009-2010 Classics season last night in the Peristyle with plenty of Latin passion. You could have danced to every piece on the program - although, sadly, no one did.
Paying tribute to longtime donor Rita Barbour Kern, who underwrote the pair of finales, Principal Conductor Stefan Sanderling described the collection of music from Mexico, Spain, and France as "one of the most beautiful concerts I have ever conducted."
The maestro was in top form, setting a tempo and style and then letting the orchestra take it away. After a long and complex season, the instrumentalists seemed fresh and ready to samba. Or tango. Or rhumba. Or all of the above.
From the opening number, an irresistible setting of a traditional Mexico City dance form by Arturo Marquez, Danzon No. 2, the TSO was ready to rock 'n' roll - although that wasn't part of the musical plan.
Instead, they played with respect, passing solos graciously from section to section, matching articulation, honoring each others' artistry with more of the same, creating seamless waves of melody and harmonic punctuated with some of the most over-the-top percussion work of the year.
In his sensual and synesthetic composition, La Noche de los Mayas (Night of the Mayas), Silvestra Revualtas tapped the mystery, intensity, and mercurial emotions of his Mexican ancestors. With an expanded percussion section, the final movement of the four was a rhythmic explosion.
Contralto Jennifer Hines has a voice that is sonic butterscotch, dark and buttery, thick yet pliable, and she has the acting skills to match. Although her role as the gypsy lover in Manuel de Falla's Ballet Suite from El Amor Brujo (Love, the Magician) was too small compared to her talent, Hines created a powerful character and left listeners wanting to hear more.
As a substitute for the ailing Ingrid Fliter, who was to have soloed in another de Falla work, Sanderling led the TSO in the grand finale, Ravel's classic tone poem, Bolero. To listen to this performance of the popular piece, from its subtle snare drum entrance to the all-skate wailing finale, was to hear it again as if for the first time. Again, the maestro's understated conducting seemed to elicit one of the most artful and soulful performances of the entire season.
The Toledo Symphony will repeat its Classics Series IX concert at 8 p.m. today in the Peristyle. Tickets are $20-50 at 419-246-8000 or toledosymphony.com.
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