The Toledo Symphony played at the Toledo Museum of Art Peristyle.
The first of two Classics VI performances this weekend, and dedicated to the memory of Edward H. Schmidt, the program was led by the effervescent conductor Christoph Campestrini and featured soloists from within the TSO as well as local organist Shin-Ae Chun.
Kick-started with Richard Strauss' evocative tone poem, Don Juan, the evening promised drama and brilliance as Campestrini and the TSO managed a focused and very clean performance. The horns had their winning moments in the spotlight, shared with high winds and very solid strings, all swirling and swooping to the peaceful, if resigned, ending.
Including the Max Bruch Concerto for Violin and Viola in the program was a great way to bring forward two of the TSO's gifted principal string players: Kirk Toth and Valentin Ragusitu. Not that concertmaster Toth lacks attention, but Ragusitu, whose rich viola sound and compassionate playing lifted the performance, rarely is heard beyond his section.
A fairly uncertain opening — whose tempo was going to be used? — resolved itself into a gracious performance of a work filled with lovely melodies and wonderful partnering.
The Saint-Saens Symphony No. 3, commonly known as the Organ Symphony, summarizes the French composer at his Impressionist best.
Local organist Shin-Ae Chun was in charge of the TMA's historic Skinner instrument while University of Toledo pianist Michael Boyd shared the Steinway keyboard with TSO player Valrie Kantorski.
There seemed to be some dissension among the strings over tempo, particularly in the opening with its demanding 16th note passages. Thrown into the role of mediator, Campestrini, who has a most lyrical conducting technique, finally worked out a compromise, but the tempo of Part I seemed forced.
Things improved by Part II, with its thematic iterations, four-hand piano cascades, and thumping chords from the organ. As a showpiece for the Skinner, the Saint-Saens doesn't cut it — it would be great to hear Shin-Ae in a more organ-centric work.
Still, the combination of full orchestra and booming pipes is hard to resist and, by the final sections, the audience didn't bother to try. The evening ended on a well-earned triumphant note.
The Toledo Symphony Classics VI concert will repeat at 8 p.m. Saturday in the Peristyle. Tickets starting at $20 are available at 419-246-8000 or www.toledosymphony.com.
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