Four stars

Hilbert Circle Theater;

Feb. 29-March 1

Friday night’s concert was some of the most exciting, spicy playing I have heard from Mario Venzago and the ISO, and that’s no exaggeration. John Adams’ fanfare Short Ride in a Fast Machine started us off on the right foot with agile and engaging playing for this most fun of pieces to hear (and play). A composer known for movie soundtracks, John Williams wrote an interesting Tuba Concerto that featured ISO principal tubist Anthony Kniffen. Any ideas people had about the tuba simply being an “oompah”instrument at the back of a marching band were quickly dispelled. His playing was quite simply spectacular. Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Capriccio espangol followed, with some very lively tempos, all handled well. Ju Fang Liu, principal bassist, then wowed the crowd with Eduard Tubin’s Double Bass Concerto. Due to the huge orchestration for the work, Lui was unfortunately covered up occasionally, but when you could hear her, it was obvious what an awesome player she is. All this featuring of ISO musicians seemed to really give the orchestra a sense of excitement and intensity, and Ravel’s Bolero, the last work of the evening, ended in just that way.

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