Music review: Marsh Symphony on the Prairie


4 stars

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.


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