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Daily News 2001 Feb

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"...powerful and emotional..."

 

Musical Pyrotechnics

by Anne Herman

 

If it’s musical pyrotechnics you want, then the 1812 Overture is just the thing. Tchaikovsky’s stirring work marking Napoleon’s rout from Russia is filled with booming cannons, echoing church bells and patriotic songs - music that give you a lump in the throat. The Anchorage Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Randall Craig Fleischer, opened its season Saturday with a bang – and it wasn’t just fireworks and concussion pots. The sold out evening at Atwood Concert Hall was a collection of emotional, sensual and finely crafted works by Elgar, Wagner, Saint-Saens and, of course, Tchaikovsky.

 

The popular 1812 Overture was definitely a multimedia crowd pleaser that brought the audience jumping to its feet almost before its wild end, at the close of the concert. But guest artist Wendy Warner topped that with an exquisite interpretation of Camile Saint-Saens Cello Concerto No. 1 in A Minor. This beautiful and virtuosic piece stretched Wagner’s creativity. The cello was the concerto’s heart and soul and demanded a performance of talent, passion and nuance. She poured emotions into the instrument, translating feelings of anger, sadness, gentleness and even regret into multidimensional sounds. A single chord marked the concerto’s start and launched Warner into a dramatic expansion of the work’s central theme. Warner’s cello rocked and swayed as she gave voice to this evocative instrument. The cello seemed to respond to her insistent fingers in a musical dialogue that was quietly supported by the orchestras. This was quite evident in the final movement, where Warner’s virtuosity and dynamic range captured Saint-Saens’ expressive work.

 

Edward Elgar’s “Enigma Variations” was a celebration of the myriad sounds of the orchestra. The work, a series of musical sketches of some of Elgar’s friends, is considered an orchestral masterpiece. The symphony handled with energy and a bit of humor as well. Elgar’s most dramatic sketches were for his wife and his close friend, August Jaeger, whom he called “Nimrod.” In fact, the “Nimrod Variation” is perhaps the best known of the work. The strings repeated the opening theme softly and soulfully, then swelled into a grand, majestic sound reverberating throughout the instruments. The work came to a glorious close by pulling together some of the major variations, as well as themes that haunted the entire work in bits and pieces.

 

Richard Wagner’s Prelude and “Liebestod” – the beginning and conclusion of his opera “Tristan and Isolde” – was perhaps a bit weaker when compared with the sumptuous music that surrounded it. Although muted, it did speak of Wagner’s fatalistic version of a Romeo and Juliet love story. The Prelude expressed the tension and passions barely contained while the “Liebestod” ourned the inevitable death of love and life. This was quite a powerful, emotional concert that appealed to the audience and the musicians. And what a stunning introduction to the Symphony’s new season.