REVIEW: Chamber Orchestra lights it up for "Fortunes"
Who: Chamber Orchestra of the Springs, conductor Thomas Wilson, guest soloists Hausmusik quartet (CQ)
When: 2:30 p.m. today
Where: First Christian Church, 16 E. Platte Ave.
Tickets: $20, $17 seniors, active-duty military with ID and $5 for ages 25 and younger; 633-3649, chamberorchestraofthesprings.org
Something else: There will be a pre-concert lecture presented by KCME's Jeanna Wearing (CQ) at 1:45 p.m.
It is said that when you're No.2, you have to try harder. As an organization that exists in the shadow of the Colorado Springs Philharmonic, that's exactly what they do at the Chamber Orchestra of the Springs.
Saturday night's concert at the Broadmoor Community Church was a perfect case in point. By offering music certain to entertain its audience and by getting the most out of its players, the younger brother of our region's preeminent orchestral program is giving notice that its concerts belong on the "must-do list" of the region's classical music lovers.
Michael Daugherty composes music that never fails to engage an audience through its well conceived thievery of styles, melodies and textures. “Tell My Fortune," which premiered in 2004, opened the concert and parlayed fragments of gypsy harmonies, urban soundscapes and Broadway melodies into a contemporary portrait of human foibles.
The orchestra's principal players had the chance to be playful characters in the composer's illustrative score. Textures shockingly shifted from gentle and beautiful to outright intrusive and bombastic. A fun ride that music director and conductor Thomas Wilson kept a tight reign upon.
Next, the Hausmusik string quartet joined the orchestra's strings for Ernest Bloch's Concerto Grosso No. 2 from 1952. The quartet, which was culled from the philharmonic, has been around for over two decades and usually presents its music in living rooms accompanied by fine food and drink. Bloch's brilliant essay on the integration of ancient and modern textures and harmonies gave them a great opportunity to show that they also belong on the concert stage.
And the playing, both from the quartet and the orchestra, was fine. Here, the experience is all about the music: There was no story or cultural references to be found. It is a tribute to the possibilities of stringed instruments and relies upon a wide range of dynamics and textures to succeed.
Unfortunately, the acoustics of the church undermined the composer's vision. Most glaringly, the two double basses dominated the sound. The overall volume never managed to go down enough to allow for the intimacy of the music to be appreciated.
After the experience of the Bloch, I admit to bringing some genuine concerns to orchestra's performance of Mozart's magnificent "Linz Symphony." I couldn't have been more wrong.
Here Wilson used relaxed and nuanced gestures to inspire his players to capture the essence of the great Austrian composer. When the music called for the martial and majestic, the sound arrived just that way without overloading the hall. And when Mozart called for sensitive and beautiful sounds as in the slow Poco adagio, the conductor took his forces to a sublime space.
The exciting Presto finale whipped the sound into a tasteful frenzy and when Wilson reached for the work's climax, the orchestra responded with memorable musical magic.