Sunday, May 27, 2018
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Music-Theater-Dance

Symphony closes classics season with celebratory joie de vivre

Bombast, joy, and celebration were the unmitigated hallmarks of Friday evening’s Toledo Symphony Classics Concert. On the podium was returning guest conductor, both the audience and the orchestra’s perennial favorite, Giordano Bellincampi.

For the final concert of the classics season, the program returned to the format which dominated the year’s opening half: an overture, a concerto, and a symphony. What delineated Friday evening was a universally pervasive spirit of artistic power and the pure love of making music.

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Maestro Giordano Bellincampi conducts the Toledo Symphony during a 2017 appearance.

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A rarely heard work by Mendelssohn, his Overture Ruy Blas, opened. Written in three days on a commission from the Theatre Pension Fund, it served as overture to a fund-raising production of the play by Victor Hugo.

The work has been dubbed a “blood and thunder affair,” and Friday evening’s performance was all that and more. Pushing the drama to the limit, Bellincampi emphasized the work’s fire and drama. The result was a roof-raising performance with clean string work and a captivating joie de vivre.

Orchestra Artistic Administrator and Principal Second Violin Merwin Siu took the solo role in the evening’s second piece, celebrating composer Leonard Bernstein’s centenary. The Serenade after Plato’s Symposium has it genesis in the writings of the philosopher; each movement based loosely on the speakers in the dialogue discoursing love.

The work, written in the same era as Candide and West Side Story, is scored for solo violin, harp, percussion, and string orchestra and shares many of their harmonic, melodic, and rhythmic traits.

Siu’s performance was carefully crafted, revealing his obvious love of the work. He imbued each section with a unique character and created a musically captivating landscape. The sensitivity and delicacy with which he handled the fourth movement was astounding.

Following intermission, Bellincampi led the orchestra in Mahler’s brilliantly ebullient peacock, the Symphony no. 1 in D major, “Titan.” Here is perhaps where the evening went slightly awry.

The work is a jigsaw of orchestration, tempo changes, and shifting musical textures. Although the orchestra played the individual pieces admirably, the actual combination of the parts did not quite make the whole the composer intended.

At times it seems Bellincampi made choices which buried the melodic lines and brought accompanying figures to the front, causing an odd imbalance and insecurity in where the artistic line was headed. In spite of this, the orchestra delivered a performance full of life and elan, serving as a fitting end to what has been an outstanding season.

The concert will be repeated 8 p.m. Saturday in the Toledo Museum of Art Peristyle, 2445 Monroe St., Toledo. Tickets and more information are available at 419-246-8000 or toledosymphony.com.

Contact Wayne F. Anthony at classics@theblade.com.

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