The Wichita Symphony Orchestra crowned its 2012-13 Classics Season on Sunday afternoon with great fanfare and flourish, performing a powerful program of works in the Century II Concert Hall under the baton of Music Director Daniel Hege. From the first notes of the overture to the final notes of the concert, the orchestra played with passion and commitment.
The Overture was the Prelude to Act III of the opera Lohengrin by Richard Wagner. The rich orchestral textures and the splendor of brass that characterize Wagner’s writing were well represented in Sunday’s performance. The orchestra didn’t sound quite settled on this piece, but their minds may have been on the momentous work waiting for them on the other side of intermission.
The next work on the program was Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat major, known as the Emperor Concerto. The soloist was Markus Groh, a pianist who has received international acclaim for performances as a soloist and chamber musician. Mr. Groh performed with great authority, and his playing was clean and precise but not abundant in color or nuance. The orchestra played with warmth, creating a beautiful sound.
The concert concluded with Aaron Copland’s epic Third Symphony, written in 1944. This weekend’s performances were the first of this piece by the Wichita Symphony. Maestro Hege is to be commended for programming this important American piece and the orchestra is to be commended for its dedication to an excellent performance. No section of the ensemble is spared from facing the limits of their instruments, and each section answered the call. From the extended high passages in the violins to the thundering percussion battery, Copland’s score was projected in to the concert hall with beauty and strength.
At Sunday’s performances, Hege honored four retiring members of the orchestra. Through a long-term commitment to excellence, the Wichita Symphony has become capable of presenting the most challenge works of the orchestral repertoire. Each time the orchestra takes on these master works, its members are bettered by the experience, like athletes facing ever greater challenge.