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Guitarist’s Encore Points To Strengths

TUESDAY, JAN. 14, 1997

Spokane Symphony Orchestra Sunday, Jan. 12, The Met

Like many others in the near-capacity audience at The Met Sunday, I was looking forward to hearing one of my favorite musicians perform with the Spokane Symphony.

Leon Atkinson, a versatile guitarist whose solo recitals and club appearances have always been such a pleasure, was scheduled to play concertos by Vivaldi and Villa Lobos with the Spokane Symphony. The Villa Lobos Concerto would have had the added interest of one of the composer’s best advocates, conductor Fabio Mechetti.

That was not to be.

After Friday’s rehearsal, Atkinson and Mechetti decided to cancel the Villa Lobos and substitute an orchestral work. Audience members learned about the change from small printed signs as they entered the hall.

No explanation was given.

It was clear from Atkinson’s tentative performance in Vivaldi’s little Concerto in D that his considerable performance strengths lie in his unaccompanied solo playing, not as a concerto soloist. This was amply confirmed by the freedom and intensity Atkinson brought to his encore, Villa Lobos’ Prelude in E minor.

The pleasures of the afternoon’s concert lay elsewhere, in the orchestra’s elegant performance of suites by Handel and Respighi. The replacement for the Villa Lobos Guitar Concerto was the G major Suite from Handel’s “Water Music,” an imaginative complement to the already scheduled D major Suite from the same work.

Handel wrote the “Water Music” for a boating party taken up the Thames by King George I, dinner at an aristocratic house in Chelsea and a return to London. Mechetti and the orchestra provided a fine contrast with one of the vigorous “outdoor” suites, the one in D major with trumpets and horns, and the more intimate G major Suite with flutes that undoubtedly accompanied the royal dinner.

The variety of instrumental color in these suites serves to remind us that Handel was not only good at choral writing; his orchestration was brilliant.

I took special enjoyment in those question-and-answer exchanges between the horns of Margaret Wildes and Roger Logan and the trumpets of William Berry and Andrew Plamondon in the D major Suite.

The perky piccolo of Gale Coffee added some bracing champagnelike bubbles to the Country Dance of the G major set.

Mechetti has always shown an affinity for the classically oriented works by Respighi, a composer better known for vivid, romantic orchestral showpieces such as “The Pines of Rome” and “Roman Festivals.” It was no surprise, then, that Mechetti programmed Respighi’s “Antique Airs and Dances.” Respighi took a special delight in a collection of Baroque and Renaissance lute pieces and made orchestrations of several of them.

Mechetti and the orchestra captured both the poised elegance and the extroverted rhythmic bounce of Respighi’s beautiful reconstructions.

The Spokane Symphony will repeat this performance tonight at 7:30 p.m. at The Met. Tickets are $19, $15, $13 and $9, available at G&B; outlets and the Symphony box office in the Seafirst Building downtown.

, DataTimes

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