Audrey Boreyko, conductor; Zuill Bailey, cello; July 30 and
31. Experiencing Russian Easter Overture Op. 36 (Rimsky-Korsakov), Concerto No.
1 in A Minor for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 33 (Saint-Saens) and Symphony No. 5
in E Minor, Op. 64 (Tchaikovsky) as a unit is a rare treat in any venue, yet in
concert on a welcoming cool evening on the cusp of seasonal change and in full
throes of cicada song in nature's surround sound, it was magical.
Contemporaneous, the three composers reflect vivid connections to landscapes,
events and making sense out of the changes swirling about them in the latter
quarter of the 19th century, when preserving natural beauty came in the
aftermath of human destruction on all levels. And while we know their
compositions were specifically written as ballets, it was particularly fun for
this reviewer to imagine Tchaikovsky's tumultuous No. 5 causing a furor as the
world's first symphonic ballet, Les Presages, choreographed by Leonide Massine,
who followed Nijinsky as the principal male dancer and choreographer in
Diaghilev's Ballet Russes. Les Presages, an allegory on the power of the human
spirit to overcome hatred and adversity, encapsulates this program's themes of
unifying diverse beliefs for the greater good, the elevating power of civil
discourse, and victory through strife. Musically, woodwinds, horns and
percussion are very much on equal footing with strings. ISO players as soloists
and in sections delivered a beautifully balanced sound throughout, particularly
in a shimmering partnership with cellist Zuill Bailey, whose dramatic
interpretation made us sit up and listen to Saint-Saens' spirited instrumental
conversation. For those who attended the July 9 and 10 John Denver concert, there
was a delightful "aha" between Tchaikovsky's solo horn theme and Annie's Song.
Based on reviews of Denver's 1985 concerts in Russia we know he had fun
borrowing, and we had fun wondering if the ISO did this programming
deliberately or by happenstance.