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Review: Wichita Symphony’s take on Mahler and Mozart is energetic and expressive

  • Eagle correspondent
  • Published Sunday, March 10, 2013, at 12:33 p.m.

Music director Daniel Hege lead the Wichita Symphony in an energetic and expressive program in the Century II Concert Hall on Saturday night, balancing the light-hearted sensibilities of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart with the deeply introspective work of Gustav Mahler.

The first portion of the program featured WSO principal oboist Andrea Banke as soloist, performing Mozart’s Oboe Concerto in C Major. In her duties with the orchestra for the past eight years, Banke consistently has brought an inspirationally high level of musicianship. In her performance of this jovial concerto, Banke made the most of the playful lines and displayed exquisite technique.

The orchestra accompaniment was heavy at times, slightly obscuring Banke’s beautiful tone, but her playing of the cadenzas was breathtaking.

Following intermission, the orchestra performed Mahler’s Symphony No. 4. In brief remarks preceding the performance, Hege gave insight into Mahler’s compositional concepts and made note of some of the interesting sonorities in store. Some listeners find the complexity of Mahler challenging, but with Hege’s listening cues, the audience was well prepared for a superb performance.

Hege’s interpretation was thoughtful and balanced, and the orchestra’s playing was beautiful and powerful. Concertmaster John Harrison’s sound was full of a glorious range of color and the clarinets compellingly delivered the broad spectrum of sonorities Mahler requires. Principal French horn player Nicholas Smith’s playing was expressive and expansive and he was well supported by the rest of the horn section. Smith’s command of his instrument is impressive and his performance Saturday was compelling.

In the fourth movement of the symphony, soprano Janet Brown beautifully captured the essence of the lyrics. Her radiant voice communicated joy, beauty and peace.

David Baxter is a member of the music faculty at Newman University. He has performed in symphony orchestras and orchestra pits in many cities and enjoys participating in Wichita’s musical community.

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