Tonight’s LaGrange Symphony concert at the Callaway auditorium was all about youth - and they stole the show.
The concert opened with Antonin Dvorak’s Slavonic Dance in g minor, in which the members of the LaGrange Symphony were joined in performance by members of the LaGrange Symphony Youth Orchestra, putting nearly 100 talented musicians on stage.
The dynamic range of the ensemble was awesome, although some intonation problems marred an otherwise stellar performance. Members of the Youth Symphony should feel pleased that they performed at a level consistent with the general level of performance from the senior orchestra.
In keeping with the “youthful” theme of the program, the orchestra next tackled the overture to “The Barber of Seville” by Giaocchino Rossini, composed when Rossini was only 24 years of age. This is music meant to be played with “sparkle,” light, airy and above all, saucy.
The performance we heard tonight had all the sparkle of a ball of yarn. The various sections of the orchestra were not in balance with each other, attacks were imprecise, mostly late. This was definitely not at the level I had come to expect of the symphony before the long concert break.
As if to save the day, young clarinetist Manuel Ramos came on stage confidently and wowed the audience with his flawless scales and arpeggios while totally capturing the essence and total musicality of the first movement of Carl Maria von Weber’s Clarinet Concerto in f minor.
The tonal grace of Ramos’ instrument was always apparent, never strident on the high notes, or blatant on the low tones; always mellow and musical. This young man has a bright future ahead, and will bear watching as his career broadens and soars.
Mr. Ramos was followed by violinist Nadir Khashimov, who lead off his portion of the program with Pablo Sarasate’s violin masterpiece “Zigeunerweisen” or “Gypsy Airs.” I was totally captivated by this man’s performance! All of the “Gypsy Airs” rolled into this composition were Hungarian folk tunes which I had heard around the house since I was four years old being sung by my mother in Hungarian.
Now, the program notes say that Mr. Khashimov was from Uzbekistan, but as far as I personally am concerned, he has to be Hungarian! The passion, the longing, the almost spiritually connected performance of this work by the soloist bears that out. I’m kidding, of course, but in reality he was just as Iberian in the Carmen Fantasy, again by Sarasate, as he was Hungarian in the previous work.
This young man is a phenomenal talent, and at this point in his life, there is no telling just to what heights he will rise. The LaGrange symphony is to be heartily congratulated for engaging this performer, and I understand from a board member that he will return to LaGrange to perform with the symphony in the 2015-16 season. I, for one, can hardly wait!
The concert ended with a passionate, yet touching performance of Tchaikovsky’s Fantasy-Overture on “Romeo and Juliet;” again a story of youth and young love. The orchestra and Maestro Cobos pulled together and made this an outstanding performance, although again, some of the balance problems were apparent.
When any section is overbearing, the result is jarring, and the mood that has been created up to that point is destroyed and must be rebuilt again. This is something on which the orchestra needs to work.
There were lots of empty seats throughout the auditorium. If you had tickets and either couldn’t or didn’t attend, you missed a truly outstanding evening of music.