The Boise Philharmonic gave concertgoers a taste of where classical music was and where it is going last Saturday night, culminating in an impressive performance of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony. The Velma V. Morrison Performing Arts Center was filled to capacity for the concert, bridging the ties between traditional and contemporary classical music for a wonderful program.
The opening piece, Finding Rothko, was composed by contemporary composer Adam Schoenberg. In an announcement before the performance of the piece, Musical Director Eric Garcia announced that the 37 year old composer had been invited to introduce the piece that evening, but was unable to after being invited to the Grammy Awards the next day because of his nomination for Best Contemporary Classical Composition, for his piece Picture Studies. The Boise Philharmonic helped to provide insight into the music by projecting behind the orchestra each or the four paintings by painter Mark Rothko (1903-1970) that the composition was based upon during their respective sections. Composer Schoenberg found the location of each painting by Rothko, a pioneer in Color Field Painting and one of the leaders of the New York Abstract Expressionism movement in order to go view it at length to inspire the piece.
The piece itself consist of four sections in one movement, each corresponding to a different color and painting by Rothko. Orange introduced the main ‘Rothko’ theme, while Yellow gives way to an angrier Red. The orchestra brought some real emotion to the forefront during the final section, Wine, the Boise Philharmonic shining as they brought the emotion of the expanded ‘Rothko’ theme to the piece. Overall, it was a very interesting piece written by a modern composer that really shows where modern classical music is going.
The Bruch Violin Concerto is the composer’s most popular piece, written by Max Bruch in 1865 during the Romantic Period, a time when classical music was adding new instruments and composers were writing in a more expressive manner. Considered one of the best violin concertos ever written, the Boise Philharmonic put on a standing-ovation deserving (and received it from an appreciative audience) performance. Again, the old was combined with the new, with the 152 year-old concerto performed brilliantly by 21 year-old violin virtuoso Stephen Waarts. As part of the Boise Philharmonic’s quest to bring top-rated talent to its concerts as featured soloists, Stephen Waarts was an excellent choice to perform the wonderfully expressive piece. After the performance, for which the concertgoers rose quickly for a standing ovation, Stephen took the stage again for a up-tempo, virtuoso solo piece that got another ovation.
The second half of the concert featured one of the best-liked symphonies by one of the most famous composers ever. Ludwig von Beethoven (1770-1827) is not only considered one of the main composers of the Classical Period, he is also credited with his innovative composing, orchestration and emotion as one of the founders of the Romantic Period. His 7th Symphony, premiered in 1813 as one of his best received, most popular works. Indeed, Beethoven even commented that he felt it was one of his best works. This was Beethoven in his prime and Musical Director Eric Garcia and the Boise Philharmonic gave a noteworthy performance of it.
Beethoven was a master, if not the best ever, at layering instruments, building up themes and extinguishing them, only to be born again from the embers of a new thematic element. The Boise Philharmonic really brought out this in their performance, as the 1st movement so aptly demonstrated, building the theme from a whisper of violins and woodwinds to a crecendo of typani drums and basses, only to cut back to the soft flutes and woodwinds again in preparation for the introduction of the main thematic element of the vivace with it’s dance-like themes. The movement ended with French horns, string basses and tympanis bringing a dynamic, quick end to the stirring theme.
The second movement, titled allegretto, showed the depth of talent in the Boise Philharmonic’s string section. The main theme, introduced by the cellos, expanded on by the violas and picked up, brightened and enhanced by the violins, was beautifully played. When the woodwinds, brass and tympani drums enter, it showed a wonderful depth of expression, a performance worthy of a smile by the normally dour Beethoven. The third, peppy presto movement, a workout for anyone, was delightfully performed by the Boise Philharmonic. Using as its main theme an Austrian pilgrim’s hymn, it showed how Beethoven could elevate something simple into something moving. The orchestra’s horns and bassons, evoking the sound of the traditional wooden alphorn, created a stirring sound as the played their theme.
With the fourth, final allegro con brio movement, Beethoven did not build things up, but jumped right in with the action. The Philharmonic was well up to the challenge, digging in to the movement and quickly showing their mastery of it. Like a racehorse, the theme gallops past, until Maestro Eric Garcia brought the Symphony to a halt, yielding a thoroughbred performance that had the audience on their feet, applauding. Maestro Garcia and the Boise Philharmonic clearly understand Beethoven and brought an evening of well balanced music to a wonderful end.
The Boise Philharmonic continues its season with an interesting concert this month as they look at Romeo(s) and Juliet(s). As Shakespeare said, For never was a story of more woe; Than this of Juliet and her Romeo. (Prince, Act 5 Scene 3). Performing three different musical interpretations of Shakespeare’s classic story of love and tragedy, this should be a concert not to be missed. Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet Suite will begin the evening, followed by one of the most popular and stirring pieces ever written, Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Fantasy. The evening will end with music from one of the most interesting screen interpretations of the classic story and some of the best music ever written for film, Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story: Symphonic Dances. This is sure to be an evening not to be missed.
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All photos courtesy of the Boise Philharmonic