Winston-Salem: Relish
By Ken Keuffel
September 22, 2012
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Symphony opens season with a brassy bang

The Winston-Salem Symphony's first concert of the season ended the way it began — with a big and brassy bang.

The audience reveled in the excitement generated by Beethoven's "Leonore" Overture No. 3 and Copland's Third Symphony, which features a recycled and rhapsodic version of "Fanfare for the Common Man" that both hits you in the gut and challenges your mind.

But what came in the concert's middle — well, that was something utterly extraordinary, a moment where a great piece revealed itself in all its glorious details, even ones that likely weren't apparent to listeners of previous performances.

For that, we must thank Jennifer Koh, the virtuoso who soloed so masterfully in Sibelius' Violin Concerto. This piece rests on the paradox of rhythmic and harmonic elements that shouldn't fit together — but do. And it thrives on the unexpected.

Koh brought a profound depth of feeling and commitment to every bar, revealing insights that went way beyond the music's initial layers of excitement and lyrical beauty. Her technique was just the beginning.

Koh was possessed — but in the best sense of the world. She had clearly searched for meaning in every note and was able to communicate it in memorable fashion.

The orchestra, under Robert Moody's adept direction, responded in kind. It sometimes underscored Koh's playing with vibrant rhythm. Or it unleashed an element of surprise in quick, precisely rendered explosions of brass. The winds produced one heavenly sound after another.

As for the rest of the program, this kept the orchestra's section of highly capable brass musicians busy and productive. Trumpeter Judith Saxton delivered those famed offstage solos with aplomb in the overture, and the orchestra's brass blasted its way to glory when it came to concluding bars of Copland's Third Symphony.

Particularly in Copland's symphony, the percussion made fine contributions as well, giving ways to more subdued moments in the wind section.

What a wonderful way to begin a season.

Copyright ©2012 Winston-Salem: Relish

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