Last night’s program for the Toledo Symphony’s seventh Classics Series concert seemed like a page out of Music History 101: lots of DWEM* music from Germany.
Brahms, Strauss, Schubert — great composers, no doubt, but where’s the variety?
Well, the variety was in the performance, led by principal conductor Stefan Sanderling with deep appreciation for the music and a clear understanding of how to pull the most from each work.
The result was an evening that struck a perfect balance between inspired ensemble work and sparkling solo performance.
Johannes Brahms’ Tragic Overture was the opener, giving a foretaste of the artistic mood of the band. Although the performance wasn’t goof-proof, the symphony nonetheless did justice to the piece, shaping a curvaceous musical landscape studded with sonic highlights by the oboes and French horns.
It took an American oboist (John de Lancie, the longtime principal of the Philadelphia Orchestra) to spark the dynamic Richard Strauss to create his Oboe Concerto. Consideredthe best of a small array of major works for the difficult, essential instrument, it’s a tricky showpiece. Kimberly Bryden Loch, the symphony’s gifted principal, was all over it, mastering every tricky run and spinning out its beautiful themes with great aplomb.
The last time this work was on a Toledo Symphony program was also Bryden Loch’s first year with the orchestra — 1985. She didn’t perform it then, but it’s impossible to think of any other oboist endowing it with more excitement and finesse than she did Friday night. The orchestra was simply superb in supporting role, with sterling solos by Valentine Ragusitu, viola, and woodwinds.
As wonderful as the Strauss was, it still served as a prelude to the real centerpiece of the evening: Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 9 in C Major, called The Great.
Great it was in real time, no, better than that. Under Sanderling’s beautifully conceived leadership, the performance was stellar, certainly one of the finest works the maestro has led during his tenure in Toledo.
In the past, Sanderling has professed a deep respect and love for Schubert, relishing the contrasts and the accessible emotion the composer could create in his too short life. Last night he demonstrated how he feels Schubert ought to sound with a lively, entirely coherent, and always surprising reading of the symphony, the last major piece the composer finished before his untimely death at 31.
With Schubert, there is no shortage of themes, typically two or three per movement, each announced with distinctive style but also played one against the other for maximum contrast. Sanderling led the orchestra to make the most of each juxtaposition, pulling forth lovely nuanced tempo adjustments and crisply defined dynamics.
In many solo moments Toledo Symphony’s winds, particularly oboist Michele Smith, flutist Joel Tse, clarinetist Georg Klaas, and trombonists Garth Simmons, Charles Slater, and Daniel Harris, were outstanding.
*Dead White European Male
This program will repeat at 8 p.m. today in the Peristyle. For ticket information contact the symphony office at 419-246-8000 or www.toledosymphony.com.
Contact Sally Vallongo at: firstname.lastname@example.org