Review: Chattanooga Symphony shines with Ravel, Dvorak

Review: Chattanooga Symphony shines with Ravel, Dvorak

November 5th, 2012 by By Mel Wilhoit in Local Regional News

The Chattanooga Symphony performs in the Tivoli.

A crisp fall evening greeted guests streaming beneath the sparkling marquee over the Tivoli Theatre as the Chattanooga Symphony presented another of its Masterworks concerts Saturday.

The program opened with Maurice Ravel's "Introduction and Allegro" (1907), the happy result of crass commercialism at its best, resulting from the Erard Music Co.'s commission of a composition to show off its new pedal harp. The outcome was a chamber piece for harp, flute, clarinet and strings.

This performance spotlighted principal players Caroline Brown Hudson on harp, Janet Hale on flute and Robert West on clarinet.

Ravel's music possesses that shimmering quality often associated with Impressionism and is thoroughly entrancing. Hudson's performance was most impressive, captivating listeners with masterful cadenza-like passages, alternating in a delightful interplay with the flute and clarinet. This sparkling jewel of a work was a great vehicle to display the mastery of CSO principal players.

The next work was also for reduced forces. It was "Sunset Strip" by Michael Daugherty, whose "Metropolis Symphony" was featured on the season opener.

This music takes the listener on a colorful ride down California's famous highway, stopping to admire "beatnik hangouts, Rat Pack nightclubs, private eye offices [and] Mexican Restaurants."

Featuring trumpeters David Hobbs and Brian Roberts -- who turned in remarkable performances -- the work began with fragments from the "Hawaii Five-O" TV show and morphed through many styles. The second movement boasted only a trio, with the two trumpets joined by Monte Coulter on beatnik tom-toms, while the third and final movement featured inspired playing from the woodwinds.

Even though Daugherty's music seems rather fragmented at times, it still manages to satisfy and is evocative of recent pop culture through a misty lens. Maestro Kayoko Dan seemed in her element.

After intermission, Antonin Dvorak's "Symphony No 6 in D Major, Op. 60" provided the concert's heavy lifting.

Dvorak's success proved true the proverb that "It's who you know that counts" -- his work became popular because his friend Johannes Brahms promoted it.

This was Dvorak's first published symphony, and it brims with Czech flavor. It also sounds like Brahms with its noble themes and soaring melodies. The second, darker movement contrasts noticeably with the sunnier first, but Dan deftly guided her forces, often with melody lines rising up almost imperceptibly out of the silence and sinking back down again.

The third movement was a sometimes whirling-dervish of a driving Bohemian dance, and the finale was a thunderous display that galvanized the audience into a standing ovation.

With the exception of a couple thin-sounding spots, the maestro turned in another strong performance. It was also nice to hear a concert of basically new works for the Chattanooga crowd.