Review: Symphony guest brings down house

Review: Symphony guest brings down house

January 14th, 2013 by By Mel R. Wilhoit in Local Regional News

The Chattanooga Symphony performs in the Tivoli.

With weather resembling January in Florida, the Chattanooga Symphony began the new year Saturday evening with a concert featuring some old favorites and a fresh face, led by Music Director Kayoko Dan.

Even those who aren't opera fans recognize Gioacchino Rossini's famed "Overture to the Barber of Seville."

Rossini had earlier employed it for two other operas, but when the original overture to "Barber" got lost at Bologna, the composer substituted the current work, although it contains no music from the opera.

While the symphony's performance was enjoyable, it struggled with both intonation and ensemble and failed to produce the famous "Rossini crescendo" that makes his works so exciting.

Composer Joaquin Rodrigo did not play the guitar, but still managed to write the famous "Concierto de Aranjuez" for guitar and orchestra. Composed in 1939, the three-movement work reflects the composer's happy marriage and devastation at his wife's miscarriage.

The Spanish-flavored concerto is best known for its second movement, featuring a haunting dialog between guitar and soloists, particularly the sinewy English horn, played by Teresa Spilko. At times, this music seemed like a soulful meditation upon life's deeper questions.

Guest soloist for the evening was dashing young heartthrob Pablo Sainz Villegas, who boasts an impressive string of awards. His international touring schedule is equally impressive. After the performance, music lovers lined up eagerly to buy his CDs.

While the concerto performance was serviceable, it was the solo encores that displayed Sainz Villegas' impressive guitar chops. "La Boda de Luis Alonso," a Spanish zarzuela by Giménez, and the Argentinean "Tango en Skai" by Dyens were dazzling works that showcased Sainz Villegas' limitless technique and impeccable musicianship, bringing down the house.

After intermission, Dan directed the orchestra in a thrilling rendition of the rarely-performed "Symphony No. 1 in e minor, Op. 39" by the Finnish composer Jan Sibelius.

The work opened with a lonely clarinet solo by Robert West and then alternated between short, rhythmic motives and grand Tchaikovsky-like melodies. Dan conducted with elegant assurance, and the ensemble responded with a rich, full, and focused sound. The balance and phrasing were faultless, and the interpretation was inspired -- a truly impressive performance of a neglected work.

The performance was repeated on Sunday afternoon at the VW Convention Center.