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"...The choice of music was flamboyant and entertaining, just as conductor and musical director Randall Craig Fleischer is while performing...."


ASO Symphony presents flamboyant program

by Katie Stine


The Anchorage Symphony Orchestra featured Glenn Dicterow, concertmaster for the New York Philharmonic, in its concert Saturday evening. The choice of music was flamboyant and entertaining, just as conductor and musical director Randall Craig Fleischer is while performing. The evening’s opener, Sibelius’ “Finlandia,” showcased a full range of dynamic fireworks that I had yet to set the Anchorage symphony express. Fleischer kept the energy level high and his players but didn’t have to sacrifice control to maintain the pianissimos and fortes. Here, I began to see how Fleischer anticipates the expression of a piece: The audience can tell when a crescendo is about to occur as Fleischer stands with feet apart, like Peter Pan. It’s a dead giveaway that something spectacular is about to happen.


Dicterow, the soloist in Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, is a man I could picture as a kindly next door neighbor, the guy who would hold the ladder as you climbed up on your roof. His opening articulations caught me off guard as he accented the dissonance and flew through the consonance. His cadenzas were crisp and though virtuosic, every note was still crystal clear. Nothing was bowled over or muddied for the same of speed.


The orchestra ended the night with Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances. This is a provocative piece, full of twists and dramatic progressions. Rachmaninoff can be a tricky fellow, leading the ear one way, the turning around and going the other. This piece comes complete with fantastic bass lines, which the bass section sank its teeth into and the use of the contrabassoon was a rare treat. Despite the excellent repertoire selection, the opening of this second half of the evening was not as together as “Finlandia,” but it gained a more secure footing into the second movement. This the modern listener could like to Danny Elfman’s score for the film “Edward Scissorhands” – or any other Elfman score, for that matter, as he uses the same chord progression as Rachmaninoff does here, one that keeps the audience slightly off-balance, unsure of where the progression will lead next. It’s minor and sounds just a little demented, like the waltz of an abused, ragged toy.


However, the third movement really takes the cake. There’s the usual playing around an ending cadence, and it sounds much like the ends of classical-era symphonies, warning the audience far in advance when to clap. But this Rachmaninoff is a sly one. The piece sounds as if it will end, and there is a fermata rest, and then, as people’s hands come up to applaud, it just keeps on going, melting into more lyrical passages. The real ending, however, is just as dramatic. In the midst of the commotion at the final note, Fleischer cued a gong with his forefinger raised, arm extended: the final sound, the final gesture. The maestro kept his arm extended, the players tensed, and the audience remained breathless until all of the sound had been wrung from the theater.