November 22, 2009

Review: Dartmouth Symphony Orchestra

"Da da da dum..." Who hasn't heard that famous motif? It has echoed through concert halls, practice rooms, and auditoriums more times than anyone could count. And Saturday at 8 p.m., it echoed through Spaulding Auditorium. It was resonant. Radiant. Beethoven's Fifth.

Call me a child of cliche if you like but I was struck by those chords. The powerful C minor can be abused and it can be raised to its potential; but Ludwig van Beethoven would have been proud last night because with Conductor Anthony Princiotti and a few key soloists (including Matthew Boyas '13) leading the way, the Dartmouth Symphony Orchestra took the Fifth beyond its potential into greatness.

It was an amazing night for classical music, that's for sure; in a brave leap of juxtaposition, the great Fifth was preceded by Bonnie Thron's stellar guest performance in Shostakovich's Cello Concerto No. 1 in E-flat Major. Shostakovich and Beethoven are neither of them for the faint of heart, and neither of them easy to perform. One key mistake could ruin either. It was a courageous DSO that took on the dual challenge. The two epic pieces were accompanied on either side by Tchaikovsky: "Waltz from Serenade for Strings in C Major" to begin, and a surprise encore to follow.

Ms. Thron was superb and passionate in the Shostakovich; her solo cadenza stole my breath away. The french horn solo reminded me of a true "Vox Clamantis In Deserto," a beautiful voice crying out in the wilderness. And Shannon Draucker '13 performed an exquisite clarinet solo- the best I have ever heard.

All in all, it was a good night for DSO, Beethoven, Shostakovich, and every member of the audience. I don't think there was a soul there that night not touched by the might of the fiery sound emanating from the stage. The audience certainly showed its appreciation, rising to its feet after the Fifth and clapping enough to bring on the second Tchaikovsky.

The standing ovation was certainly well deserved.

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