MSO's 40th season… We all felt a bit Scottish as the concert ended'
By By Chris Jenkins/The Meridian Star
The Meridian Symphony Orchestra continued the celebration season of 40 years of existence Saturday evening in the Ivy Theatre of Meridian Community College.
Even with the inclement weather, the crowd was enthusiastic in its attention and appreciation of the fine performance.
The pieces performed carried a Scottish theme, "Scots wha hae!" Bagpipes, a virtuoso violinist, superb conducting and beautiful symphonic music filled the room.
The program opened with a piece by American composer Aaron Copland. His "Inaugural Fanfare" was performed as part of the Meridian Symphony Orchestra's yearlong celebration of the centenary of Copland's birth. Typical of Copland, this piece featured strong brass and unusual chords. The attention of the audience was grabbed and the room warmed by this fanfare. A high trumpet solo was particularly good.
The second selection of the evening was "An Orkney Wedding, With Sunrise." Peter Maxwell Davies, also a contemporary composer, wrote this picturesque piece. The listener was led through scenes of a wedding: the guests arriving out of violent weather (appropriate for the evening), the processional, the tuning of the band, the increasingly inebriated dance, the walk home through the night and the sunrise.
Davies' "picture-postcard recording," as he described it, provided the audience with a variety of orchestral sounds and sites.
The well-written program notes were particularly helpful on this piece. Of particular interest were the alternating soloists and the finale featuring a bagpipe player processing from the back of the theatre.
We were all transported to the sunrise after the wedding in a Scottish way with the sounds of the bagpipe accompanied by full orchestra!
Max Bruch, a 19th-century composer wrote the third selection of the concert, "Scottish Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra." This selection was the highlight of the evening for me. Guest violinist, Liviu Prunaru, took our breath away with his virtuoso playing of a 1676 violin. His amazing talent was thrilling. All talent aside, he performed the entire work from memory!
This obviously challenging work was carried off in a fine way by the soloist and the symphony. The symphony did its part in making the work exciting. Interchanges between the soloist and the orchestra were smooth and unstrained. Maestro Clair Fox Hilliard seemed very comfortable in his conducting and is always a joy to watch as he clearly cues each section and soloist.
From the first emphatic notes to the vigorous finale, this Scottish fantasy stole the show as evidenced by the standing ovation and the "bravos" received at its completion.
After a brief intermission, a major work of Felix Mendelssohn, "Symphony No. 3 in A Minor" was performed. This work is dubbed the "Scottish Symphony" because of its Scottish flavor. Hilliard commented at the pre-concert lecture, which I highly recommend for all symphony-goers, that this piece may not be a regular on the concert repertoire but it will sound familiar because of the nature of Mendelssohn's music.
He was right. I don't think I have heard this work since graduate school, but it was easy to follow and enjoy. Scored for a full string section, small woodwind and brass section and timpani, it was a work appropriate to close a program with a Scottish theme.
Though not originally subtitled, "Scottish," Mendelssohn referred to it in his correspondence as his "Scottish" symphony. The Scottish themes had a Scottish flavor though they were not folk songs from Scotland. The distinct dotted rhythms created much interest, especially in the finale.
The orchestra did a fine job with the balance of melodic and rhythmic interest throughout the work. Paul Garcia did a wonderful job on the timpani! Not an easy work to perform, the orchestra never stumbled playing Mendelssohn's genius orchestration which blended imitative entrances, lyrical melodies and distinct rhythms.
An evening enjoyed by all, we all felt a bit Scottish as the concert ended. Hats off to the Meridian Symphony Orchestra for another concert well done! A continuing Happy 40th Anniversary to the symphony and all of its personnel and supporters! We look forward to the third concert of the season on Feb. 17, 2001.
Dr. Chris Jenkins is an instructor of music at Meridian Community College who writes performance reviews for The Meridian Star.