Unconventional concert closes season
By Gregory Shepherd
Advertiser Classical Music Critic
Even though the main attraction was unable to get a work visa to perform with the Honolulu Symphony, Samuel Wong and the orchestra managed to hold their own on Friday's rendition of the season finale.
The Honolulu Symphony MasterWorks season finale 4 p.m. today Blaisdell Concert Hall $15-$57 792-2000
Dances Around the World
The Honolulu Symphony MasterWorks season finale
4 p.m. today
Blaisdell Concert Hall
Selections from Dvorak's "Slavonic Dances" opened the program with a bit of unbalance between the brass and percussion (too loud), and the high strings (too soft), but the situation was soon righted.
The effervescence of the first of the dances was nicely contrasted with the more doleful second dance. The cellos sang as one in the sixth of the dances, and Wong brought out all of the fire and passion of the eighth, whose constantly changing rhythm, meter and tempo would have been a daunting challenge to a lesser ensemble.
Zoltan Kodaly's rarely heard "Dances of Galanta," which ended the first half of the program, was so intrinsically interesting that one wonders why it had never been performed here before. Its orchestration sparkles, and its insinuating rhythms immediately take hold of the ear and don't let go.
Wong and company invested it with real emotional commitment, with excellent solo work by Scott Anderson (clarinet), Susan McGinn (flute), Scott Janusch (oboe), David Buck (piccolo) and Paul Barrett (bassoon).
Following intermission wereseveral brief Offenbach dances conducted by a symphony board member who had bid for the privilege; then it was on to Saint-Saiens' "Danse Macabre."
This piece and Ravel's "La Valse," which ends the program, have an almost devilish cast to them, which seems a strange way to end a symphony season, but both were extremely well performed.
The Saint-Saiens crackled with concertmaster Ignace Jang's solo violin work on Friday, and the
Ravel had all sorts of diabolical filigrees written into the score, all of which Wong brought forth masterfully.
Instead of the gaiety and light one expects from a waltz, some of the passages of "La Valse" almost sounded as though they were written for the Hell Philharmonic, so bizarre and grotesque are their conception. At the risk of invidious comparisons, Wong seemed to enjoy conducting this work more than any of the others.
And so ends another fine Honolulu Symphony season.
This is my final review for The Advertiser. After too many years of commuting interisland to my "real job," I have come to the conclusion that life might be somehow easier if I actually lived on the island on which I work. Many thanks to The Advertiser's Island Life staff for a fun 16 years
Aloha to all.
Gregory Shepherd is a music professor at Kaua'i Community College. He has been The Advertiser's classical music critic since 1987.