Tulsa Symphony opens season on high note
BY JAMES D. WATTS JR. World Scene Writer
Monday, September 24, 2012
9/24/12 at 6:27 AM
James Paul, the guest conductor for the Tulsa Symphony's first concert of the season, remarked that the last time he was in Tulsa, the concert he led included the Symphony in D Minor by Cesar Franck.
He joked that performing the same piece 14 years later was a bit like being told, "Let's see if we can get it right this time."
The short answer is yes. Paul led the Tulsa Symphony Saturday night at the Tulsa PAC in a performance of this work that was at once rousing and tightly controlled, dramatic without devolving into bombast.
Well, almost - there were a few passages in the final movement when the control over the massed sound (Franck's way of mimicking the effect of an organ, of which he was a virtuoso) slipped and the music threatened to become simple noise.
But those brief lapses were rare enough, and in fact underscored how well Paul and the Tulsa Symphony played this particular music. Franck's only symphony almost invites an over-the-top approach, but Paul's approach was one of lightness and speed.
From start to finish, the music had a deliciously subtle urgency - even the second movement, with its sinuous melodies from the English horn (played by Celeste Frehner) over muted plucked strings, had the same underlying drive as the outer and more vigorous movements.
The Tulsa Symphony has based the titles of its concert this season on the colors of the rainbow, with this opening concert being "Blue." Given the music performed, it might have been more appropriate to spell that title "Bleu," as it was concert of music with a definite French accent.
The evening opened with Maurice Ravel's "Mother Goose Suite," a collection of five fairy tale-inspired works. And again, that sense of lightness and quickness was apparent from the start, as Paul coaxed from the orchestra an almost diaphanous sound, as gentle and soothing as a bedtime story, and marked by fine solo work by Frehner, principal flute John Rush and principal clarinet David Carter.
In the middle was "La Mer," by Claude Debussy, which was the least satisfying work on the program. It wasn't that it was badly done - it was just that this particular "sea" was a little too placid.
The swaths and sprays of melodic fragments that make up this triptych of symphonic sketches were all neatly presented, and the climactic whoosh at the end of each section was sufficiently loud. It just seemed - for a work that was supposed to evoke the mystery and majesty of the ocean - far too dry.
Original Print Headline: TSO starts season on high note
James D. Watts Jr. 918-581-8478