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Published: Saturday, 4/30/2011


Symphony takes large artistic leap


The Toledo Symphony surprised and delighted a large audience at Friday night’s Classics IX concert with an evening of brilliant music, brilliantly performed.

That the symphony has been on an artistic roll all season is indisputable, but last night’s Peristyle event demonstrated yet another giant artistic leap forward.

Led by Stefan Sanderling, principal conductor and mastermind of the two-work program that helped catapult Toledo’s venerable classical band into the national spotlight via next weekend’s Carnegie Hall debut, the symphony brought depth, conviction, and real excitement to music by Dmitri Shostakovich and Andre Previn.

Moreover, in their first foray into major dramatic collaboration, Sanderling and the musicians were spirited, confident, and engaging in “Every Good Boy Deserves Favour,” the Tom Stoppard play in which the orchestra is a major character.

Launching the opening Largo movement in the Shostakovich Symphony No. 6, the cello and viola sections played with such verve and richness of sound that the ears suggested there were far more players than the eyes could confirm. The angular opening theme moved upward through the strings and into winds and brass, morphing and reconfiguring in a wealth of solos that showed off another huge strength of the Toledo Symphony: its principal players.

The angst of the first movement changed color in the Allegro, where a new theme insinuated itself through the sections, which coursed with raw energy.

In the third movement, Presto, a sardonic humor seemed to reflect the composer’s own view of and experiences with a powerful Soviet government that felt free to manipulate artists and their work based on political doctrines.

Following intermission, the stage was reset and lighted for the Stoppard-Previn work in its local debut. Actors from the Glacity Theatre Collective, directed by founder Cornel Gabara, joined the symphony, turning the big stage into a firsthand lesson in minimalist theatre.

David DeChristopher was stunningly loco as Alexander Ivanov, the mental patient who thinks he hears an orchestra. Sharing his name but not his mania was the tense, desperate political prisoner, played by Pete Cross.

Benjamin Pryor (Doctor), Pamela Tomassetti (Teacher, in a Russian Lady Gaga-style outfit that was over the top) and the heart-wrenching Zack Safadi as Sasha, the son of the imprisoned writer, developed the plot with great passion and skill. Kevin Hayes (the Colonel) was imposing and militaristic to the absurd.

The Classics IX concert will repeat at 8 p.m. tonight in the Toledo Museum of Art Peristyle. Tickets start at $20 at toledosymphony.com or by calling 419-246-8000.

Contact Sally Vallongo at: svallongo@theblade.com

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