Briefly noted: Relentlessly Good Performances

I’m really becoming quite weary of constantly having to rave about the miraculous progress that the UT Symphony Orchestra has made in the last five years or so. This season, in particular, it has become rather tedious having to sit through concert after concert awaiting student mistakes that never come, sloppy entrances that are instead crisp and clean, performance fatigue that has been replaced by ebullient energy and focus, and compromised interpretations, dynamics, and tempos that are anything but. Give me something to write about—a curtain falling, a string breaking, a horn splaat—something, please!

Unfortunately, the orchestra had to really rub salt in my wounds on Sunday by taking on Paul Hindemith’s Symphonic Metamorphosis with guest conductor Anthony Parnther and turning out a stunning performance. The work is a performance minefield for almost any orchestra, yet this turned into a bright and bold feast for both the orchestra and the listeners. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention some excellent woodwind work, and, notably, the torturous flute passage taken by principal flute Kathryne Salo.

UT music alumnus and bassoonist Steven V. Ingle returned to take the featured role in Carl Maria von Weber’s Andante e Rondo Ungarese, a showcase for bassoon amidst  ever-increasing elaborations…and difficulty. Ingle’s bassoon tone is rich and velvety, matched by an amazing dexterity.

Following last month’s performance of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 1, Music Director James Fellenbaum wanted to finish off the Mahler tribute by programming the deleted movement from that symphony, now called Blumine. This lyrical, somewhat un-Mahler-like piece, features a lovely solo trumpet line (Emily Whildin) that was as soothing  as it was impressive .

Guest conductor Parnther is also a bassoonist, so the three available ones (Parnther, Ingel, and UT bassoon faculty member Keith McClelland) closed the concert with Three’s Company by Steven Amundson, an amusing showcase for three bassoons, strings, and drum set. Not being a woodwind player, I never get to hear three bassoons play in harmony—that was fun.

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