Philharmonic closes 50th season in grand style

by | May 13, 2012 | Review Post

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Philharmonic closes 50th season in grand style

EditSt-conducting-embraceThe Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra closed its ambitious 50th anniversary season Friday with a serious, highbrow concert enlivened by a spectacular media component. Music director and conductor Scott Terrell led the orchestra in two large-scale symphonic masterpieces from the past century, by Hindemith and Holst, with deft precision.

His podium style is unfussy and measured, perhaps even somewhat stilted in appearance, compared with the more histrionic styles of a Leonard Bernstein or a George Zack, but he consistently draws clean, decisive play

ing from the orchestra. The Philharmonic under Terrell sounds the best it ever has in its first half-century of existence.

For the concert’s first part, Terrell unleashed his ensemble on one of the great orchestral showpieces of the 20th century, Paul Hindemith’s Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Carl Maria Weber. The Philharmonic clearly relished presenting this complex, bombastic work, and the ensemble played it marvelously, even earning spontaneous applause after the colossal first movement. The opening to the scherzo second movement was lovely, with the woodwinds and percussion in fine form. Robert Pritchard contributed an excellent flute solo in the andantino third movement. The march that ends the Symphonic Metamorphosis made an exciting finale in the hands of the Philharmonic, although within the busy contrapuntal textures of both this and the opening movements, the articulation of inner parts could have been rendered more distinctly, with a dryer approach to phrasing that would counterbalance the muddy acoustic of the Singletary Center for the Arts’ concert hall.

After intermission, the Philharmonic regaled the audience with a remarkable performance of Gustav Holst’s The Planets, accompanied by a high-definition film of our solar system’s planets. The film added epic grandeur and meditative focus, but it did not detract from the superb live music being made on the darkened stage.

The Philharmonic played thrillingly from the start, bringing ferocious intensity to the work’s first movement, “Mars, the Bringer of War,” and continuing the travelogue through the solar system with a satisfying, full sound. The French horns were absolutely splendid on this evening, playing with elegant lyricism in “Venus, the Bringer of Peace,” and then with extroverted grandiloquence in “Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity.”

The women of the Lexington Singers, led by Johnie Dean, sang beautifully in the celebrated offstage wordless chorus that ends the whole work in “Neptune, the Mystic,” but the lower voices suffered at times from faulty intonation, more a difficulty of meshing the offstage singing with the onstage playing rather than the quality of the singers themselves.

Three retiring players were recognized for their years of service: principal flutist Pritchard, principal trombonist David Henderson and second clarinetist Atossa Kramer. The redoubtable oboist Nancy Clauter retired earlier in the season, and the organization will miss the reliable artistry of all four.

At 50 years old, one of the greatest services the Lexington Philharmonic has rendered to this community has been to provide a means by which Lexington’s superb musicians could be heard publicly growing as artists. As the personnel continues to change and the organization keeps advancing, we look forward to the next half-century by the Philharmonic, our region’s leading music-maker.

Tedrin Blair Lindsay is a musician, theater artist and lecturer at the University of Kentucky

(Published: Sunday, May 13, 2012)

By Tedrin Blair Lindsay Contributing Culture Critic Page: C3

Photo by Richie Wireman

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