November 4, 1997 in Features

Symphony Opener Special Performance

Travis Rivers Correspondent
 

The Spokane Symphony Orchestra

Sunday, Nov. 2, The Met

The Spokane Symphony seems to have a little secret known only to a small group of concert goers. Its concert at The Met Sunday featured some excellent playing by the orchestra led by associate conductor Jung Ho Pak, an outstanding soloist and an interesting, unhackneyed program. But, my, there were lots of empty seats in The Met’s 740-seat auditorium.

Violin soloist Martin Chalifour made an outstanding impression Sunday as much for what he did not do as for what he did. What he did was obvious. He gave a splendid performance of Mendelssohn’s familiar Violin Concerto.

Chalifour meets Mendelssohn’s demands with a brilliant technique and flawless intonation - you would expect that of the concertmaster of the Los Angles Philharmonic. The Canadian-born Chalifour also possesses a beautifully elegant tone bolstered by the sonorous qualities of the late-period Stradivarius he plays, a violin once owned by none other than Jack Benny.

Whether Benny’s exquisite sense of timing came with the fiddle or not, Chalifour’s grace in getting from one idea to another in the concerto seemed as natural as speech. It is rare to hear this work played with such maturity and intelligence.

Pak said in his spoken program note that his and Chalifour’s intention was to capitalize on the chamber music aspects of the piece. That they did with the members of the orchestra responding to the soloist like the members of a theater repertory company.

Those spoken program notes are one of the advantages of The Symphony at The Met concerts. Soloist and conductor used their brief spoken dialogue to explain a few of the reasons why they both consider the Mendelssohn work “the perfect concerto” of the deceptively simple orchestral introduction to its thematic cross-references between movements.

Pak’s verbal guidance explained why Shostakovich’s delightful suite from his incidental music to “Hamlet” sounds so unShakespearean and anything but tragic. The music was composed for Nikolai Akimov’s 1932 production of the play was satirical, turning Hamlet into a conniving glutton, Claudius into a nervous wimp and poor Ophelia into a drunken slut. Pak’s conducting brought out the dashing energy, the swagger and, yes, even the tenderness of the music.

Just as enjoyable, thanks to excellent solo playing from members of the orchestra was Copland’s “Music for the Theater.” Two good examples were clarinettist James Schoepflin’s raucous jazziness in the “Dance” movement and Barbara Cantlon’s melancholy English horn solo in the “Interlude.”

For those who have not heard the symphony’s Met concerts - Sunday’s was the first of the season - or those who have not heard them in a while, the informality, the information and the music make them special.

, DataTimes MEMO: The Spokane Symphony will repeat this concert tonight at 7:30 at The Met.

The Spokane Symphony will repeat this concert tonight at 7:30 at The Met.

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