Arts & Culture

Symphony's opening a good start

Saturday evening's performance in Century II Concert Hall, opening this season's classical concert series by the Wichita Symphony Orchestra, contained all the ingredients of a blockbuster concert: A rousing overture, a picturesque symphony, and a powerful concerto performed by a seasoned orchestra and a soloist with world class credentials.

While enjoyable, somehow the effect of the whole was less than the sum of its parts.

The program began with Giocchino Rossini's Overture to the Barber of Seville, an effervescent work containing melodies loved by opera fans and cartoon aficionados alike. The strings and winds are required to play with flare in this piece and the orchestra accorded itself well.

It's a new season and amidst that excitement new players are finding their place in the group. Once some matters of intonation are settled, the woodwinds will re-establish the alchemy of their sounds.

Next on the program was Felix Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 3, known as the Scottish Symphony. Born into a wealthy family, Mendelssohn enjoyed the privilege of traveling widely. He drew inspiration from his travels. It was on a visit in 1829 to a Scottish castle in that he penned the melodic germ from which his Third Symphony sprang. Mendelssohn completed the piece in 1842. The piece was received enthusiastically in Wichita on Saturday.

While Maestro Andrew Sewell's interpretation was somewhat restrained, there was much to enjoy in the performance. The ensemble string playing was beautiful and there was also some beautiful playing from the winds, most notably Suzanne Tirk in her deft rendering of the clarinet solos.

The second half of the program was devoted to Sergei Rachmaninoff's Third Piano Concerto. A pianist himself, Rachmaninoff explored technical and expressive limits in his compositions. For many years all but the most intrepid players shied away from performing this piece, but over time more players have taken it on, making it an important piece in the piano repertoire. The soloist, Lilya Zilberstein, has impressive credentials and displayed a powerful command of the instrument, but her playing could have been more accurate and graceful. Rachmaninoff's compositions, in addition to being technically demanding, are also sublimely lyrical and it was in this regard that Zilberstein's performance was lacking.

The orchestra rendered their parts securely. There could have been better attention to pitch and balance in places, but Sewell maintained a good sense of ensemble with the soloist.

The compelling moments in this concert create anticipation for the orchestra's next concert as its musicians continue to work to establish their collective stride.