Correction: The Blade ran a review of an opera performance from last week in today’s print edition and online. This is the correct review from Friday’s Toledo Symphony Orchestra performance of “Classics 2.“
The Toledo Symphony's Classics 2 concert Friday in the Peristyle was a tour guide's dream, revealing the richness of music from the North Sea region.
Music by Benjamin Britten (England), Arild Plau (Norway) and Jean Sibelius (Finland) provided an opportunity for the orchestra to show its serious chops.
Every player took up the challenge.
Guest conductor Karina Canellakis, in her Peristyle debut, held the players' focus, wielding her baton with clearly defined beat in graceful, fluid, authoritative gestures.
Britten's "Four Sea Interludes" (extracted from his best opera, Peter Grimes) led off the program, each of the four pieces defining musically a time of day, from Dawn through Sunday Morning to Moonlight and, finally, Storm.
There was contrast to spare between and within each section of the larger piece, with plenty of dynamic range and varied coloration. This was precision playing with heart and soul.
At intermission Canellakis explained the swapping of cello and viola section positions, with violas along stage left front, by simply saying, "I'm used to conducting this way." The change brought out both the sound and audience awareness of the violas, who typically are hidden.
For the second work, principal tubist David Saltzman stepped in front of the orchestra to perform Plau's romantic and challenging Concerto for Tuba and Strings, a TSO premier. Written in three sections, the lyrical composition taps the mighty sonic range of this largest brass instrument, plus it offers a technical workout.
Saltzman clearly was equal to the piece, using lyrical passages to reveal his lush, bronzed tone, and fast runs and intricate tonguing to demonstrate his technical expertise.
No one cheered louder during the ovation than his fellow brass players, a lovely gesture that revealed the bond holding these hard-working musicians together.
The grand finale of the evening was Sibelius's majestic Symphony No. 2, a four-movement masterpiece described by Daniel John Carroll, the TSO's new program commentator, as "pure music." What he meant was the work isn't laden with programmatic cues, obvious themes, or historical references.
Rather, it explores the sonic possibilities of simple musical tropes created by the composer. In the first movement, it's a a rhythmic passage, rather like a Baroque trill, which is woven into the complex harmonic structure in myriad ways. In the second, it was a short, poignant melody, passed from section to section.
The third movement alternated the whiz of Vivacissimo scale variations with tender short tunes, neither repeating more than once, and involving all the sections.The final movement suggested the full range of emotion as only music can express, from doubt and fear to, in the grand finale, a triumphant wall of sound tall as a Finnish fjord.
This program will repeat at 8 p.m. today in the Peristyle. Tickets are $24-55 at 419-246-8000 or www.toledosymphony.com.
Contact Sally Vallongo at email@example.com.