Tulsa Signature Symphony concert puts Soviet composer in spotlight
BY JAMES D. WATTS JR. World Scene Writer
Monday, February 18, 2013
2/18/13 at 6:30 AM
At the conclusion of Saturday's concert by the Signature Symphony, artistic director Barry Epperley pointed out that, over the past four weekends, the orchestra had performed Beethoven's Symphony No. 5, a evening of music by the Beatles, a concert that emphasized Oklahoma's pop and country music, and had just completed a night of music by Dmitri Shostakovich.
It's an impressive range of musical styles - almost as impressive as the orchestra's performance of the three compositions that made up Saturday evening's program, "The Many Faces of Dmitri Shostakovich."
Shostakovich's biography can at times get in the way of his music. The drama of his efforts to live and work under the oppressions and terrors of the Soviet system is undeniable, and it helps provide even his most abstract works with some kind of story, from noble triumph to cowardly capitulation.
But what you hear in the best of Shostakovich is so much more than that, as something like the Symphony No. 10 in E Minor proves. It's a work that embraces the totality of the composer's personality - from terrors of violence to darkest despair to bitter sardonic humor to small yet insistent moments of hope.
These moods - and many others - shift with surprising swiftness, with individual instrumental voices providing if not continuity then the sense that the lone, plaintive voice will endure, and that brutal violence (depicted in the short second movement that Shostakovich himself called a musical portrait of Josef Stalin) cannot.
Epperley did an excellent job in bringing all the many pieces of this symphony together, and the Signature Symphony musicians responded with some truly passionate playing, punctuated by impressive solo work by bassoonist Jim Fellows, clarinetist Christy Andrews, French hornist Marsha Thompson and English hornist Ingrid Lobaugh.
Pianist Amy Cottingham was the soloist for the Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Minor - although it could easily have been number "No. 1 1/2," because of the prominent part given the lone trumpet in the otherwise all-strings orchestra.
And if you want to put a story to it, one could imagine the trumpet played by Stephen Goforth serving as the voice of authority, the orchestra as the conforming masses and the piano as the individual - maybe not a rebel, but determined to go its own way.
Cottingham's playing was remarkably assured throughout, giving the music a bit of swing when necessary, as in those slightly wonky music box-like melodies during the first movement, shading those final unresolved high notes at the end of the second movement with a delicate and drily effective poignancy, tearing through the raucous finale with an attack that in places called to mind rough-and-tumble barrelhouse-style piano.
That was echoed in her encore, an original ragtime piece titled "Fancy Frolic," a jaunty but not uncomplicated piece.
"Jaunty" is about as good a description as any for the concert's opening work, the Suite for Jazz Orchestra No. 1, scored for a 12-piece ensemble more in keeping with a dance band than an orchestra. And the music itself was more in line with European gypsy-influenced jazz or klezmer music than American jazz, full of lighthearted, even playful melodies that one doesn't expect from this composer.
It also featured some fine solo work by Andrews, Fellows and Gary Linde on saxophone, Maureen O'Boyle on violin, Steve Craft on xylophone and Randy Wimer on steel guitar.
Original Print Headline: Concert sheds light on composer
James D. Watts Jr 918-581-8478
Pianist Amy Cottingham performed Dmitri Shostakovich's Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Minor at Saturday's Signature Symphony concert. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World