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REVIEW: Chamber Orchestra's 'Voyage' a fine journey
Who: The Chamber Orchestra of the Springs with soloists Matthew Tutsky, harp and Carl Cook, marimba
When: 7 p.m. Feb. 2 and 2:30 p.m. Feb. 3
Where: Broadmoor Community Church, 315 Lake Ave., and First Christian Church, 16 E. Platte Ave., respectively
Tickets: $20, $17 seniors, $5 21 and under; 633-3649, chamberorchestraofthesprings.org
Something else: There is a pre-concert lecture given 45 minutes before the start of each performance
Upwards of 3,000 people see the pair of the Colorado Springs Philharmonic Masterworks concerts. More than 400 people see the pair of the Chamber Orchestra of the Springs concerts. After hearing the chamber orchestra's second concert of their current season last night at the Broadmoor Community Church, it's obvious to me that these numbers are definitely askew.
"Voyage of the Winds" featured three solo performances framed by Beethoven and Brahms - music that rarely, if ever, would be heard in philharmonic concerts. "The Egmont Overture" began the concert and revealed an ensemble highly attentive to their conductor and music director Thomas Wilson. This is quintessential Beethoven and uses harmony, rhythm and extreme dynamic variety to depict humanity's ultimate victory over oppression. He is at his shocking best. But it was the church's acoustics that proved to be the real oppressor of this performance.
The soundscape of the environment was easily overloaded as trumpets, horns and timpani raised the excitement of the music. The last and most crucial dynamic explosions had no where to go. The output of the orchestra's two double basses were dramatically enhanced by the space and this would prove to be a problem throughout the evening.
"Hermit Playing the Violin," from Max Reger's "Four Tone Poems after Arnold Böcklin," proved the perfect antidote to the sonic congestion. The orchestra's concertmaster, Jacob Klock, assumed the musical role of the hermit and captured the essence of the work's beauty and soulfulness. Wilson made sure the support was stalwart for this seldom heard gem.
Wilson introduced clarinetist Ian Buckspan for the longest work of the concert, Mozart's transcendent Clarinet Concerto, which was composed in the last year of his life. Buckspan recently had to resign as assistant principal in the philharmonic due to health reasons. This performance illuminated what a great loss this is to music in our region.
Repeated listenings of recordings of this masterwork do not prepare one for the spectacle of live performance. With sensitive and glowing support from the orchestra, Buckspan put on a display of virtuosity and beauty that created a new bar for solo performance in this current artistic season. The first movement's demanding rhythms and embellishments were no problem for the young clarinetist, although he did loose touch with the orchestra for a brief moment. Wilson skillfully brought the ensemble back on track.
It was in the Adagio that Buckspan truly won over the audience. This was lyric, songful and sublime expression, truly in the bel canto style. The clarinetist seemed to be tiptoeing on the clouds and produced a sumptuous sound that sadly had to reach its end. He then joyfully burst out of the gate into the Rondo finale with tempo I had previously thought not possible. He rode the genius of Mozart to an exhilarating finish.
Wilson's programming assured there was no let down in the concert's second half. The philharmonic's longtime principal flutist, Paul Nagem, brought us the beauty of his instrument for "Voyage for Flute and Strings" by John Corigliano. Nagem's was a confident musical presence to the composer's deeply felt score. Wilson made sure the adventurous harmonic underpinning asked of the strings fit perfectly into the fabric of the composition. This allowed Nagem's precious artistry and sound to be all-the-more appreciated.
It was not until the final work of the evening, Brahms' "Variations on a theme of Haydn," that the orchestra had the opportunity to display its virtuosity. Wilson led a fully-satisfying reading of this staple of the repertoire that produced great elegance in the face of the composer's relentless rhythmic and harmonic invention. The violins accurately rendered their rollicking role and allowed the winds to be the stars. I was especially impressed by the sound and sensitivity of principal oboist Angie Burta and both bassoonists, John Lawson and Paul Ruff.
As the Brahms proved, the Chamber Orchestra of the Springs offers classical music lovers in the region the chance to be less dependent on the philharmonic's far too infrequent classical performances. Concertgoers will hear the occasional interruption of the musical fabric, but should still find themselves leaving concerts quite satisfied. Their other concert venue, downtown's First Christian Church, also offers a noticeable improvement in the overall sound it projects.