Masterworks 5 Concert Review by John Bridges

ASHEVILLE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA

MASTERWORKS  5 • BRAHMS SYMPHONY NO. 1

Daniel Meyer, conductor

Douglas O’Conner, saxophone

Erin Bolshakov and Harby Gonzalez, dance

Saturday, March 17, 2012 • 8:00 pm
Thomas Wolfe Auditorium
Asheville, North Carolina

– Review –

Conductor Daniel Meyer devised a clever program for the most recent concert by the Asheville Symphony by bridging the music from established and familiar composers Johannes Brahms and Gioacchino Rossini to that of lesser known composers Alexander Glazunov and Astor Piazzolla.

The concert opened with one of Rossini’s most bubbling works: “Overture to La scala di seta” also known as The Silken Ladder. The overture is full of scales which were played faster and faster as fitting for the prelude to this comic opera.

Then, Douglas O’Conner was featured in Glazunov’s “Concerto for Alto Saxophone and String Orchestra”. Here, the musical theme in the first movement is repeated with brilliance in the second movement which, in turn, leads to a fugue in the final movement ending with a solo flourish.  Whereas Glazunov is best known for his ballet scores, this work is much different; appropriately, O’Conner’s playing bore no relationship to the jazz style usually attributed to the saxophone.

Piazzolla’s “Oblivion” was next. As the musical guru of the tango, this is, perhaps, his best work for the concert hall; it has been transcribed into many forms. Again, O’Conner was the featured instrumentalist – this time playing a soprano saxophone. A surprise was the inclusion of an Argentine tango performed in a sensuous manner by Erin Bolshakov and Harby Gonzalez from the VISTA Ballroom in Columbia, South Carolina.

The concert closed with Brahms’ “Symphony No. 1 in C minor”. This favorite of the symphony repertoire was 14 years in the making and features many Brahmsian trademarks including a dramatic chorale. Meyer delivered an emotional, yet lyrical, reading which was preceded by the impressive sounding of an enormous Alpine horn by Asheville Symphony’s Michael Brubaker.