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‘Shining Stars’ Highlight Philharmonic Concert

Classical Review

May. 4, 2010
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“Shining Stars” was the appropriate title of the Wisconsin Philharmonic's May 2 concert. In addition to the orchestra's usual instrumentalists there appeared the winners of its youth concerto competition as well as a smattering of youth orchestra members.

Another “shining star” was Joseph Schwantner, the American composer of the first work, Chasing Light. This four-movement work reflects Schwantner's New Hampshire home—specifically the experience of dawn. It begins with a highly dramatic, tam-tam-punctuated first movement, a Coplandesque second, an engrossing third (with climaxes brought on by stalking tympani) and an appropriately powerful finale. Conductor Alexander Platt led a performance that was good enough to have been a professional recording session.

Two concerto movements ensued thereafter: young Allison Rich gave a very solid reading of the finale to Elgar's Cello Concerto in E Minor, Op. 85, and Seth King-Gengler rendered a strong, passionate performance of the finale to Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 37.

The culminating work on the program was Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67, which, though not without moments of brilliance, was on the whole uneven and unsatisfying. Perhaps this was due to the fact that the Wisconsin Philharmonic was augmented by several teenage instrumentalists? (This was, after all, the first attempt at a blended orchestra). But I'd like to see this tried again with, I'd suggest, a less ambitious work.


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