The compositions played at a classical concert rarely come in such a fun bundle as they did at Sunday afternoon’s Spokane Symphony concert at The Met. Sunday’s performance was a splendid homecoming for Jason Moody, a 23-year-old violinist who began his career here. And conductor Eckart Preu and the orchestra found the wit and downright laughter in two orchestral standards by Stravinsky and Haydn.
Preu got the fun going with Stravinsky’s Suite from his 1920 ballet “Pulcinella,” a work more often heard in orchestral concerts than seen on the ballet stage. The story tells about the amorous scrapes and pratfalls of the title character. Stravinsky’s score is based on music thought to be by the 18th-century Italian composer Giovanni Battista Pergolesi as arranged, and occasionally deranged, by Stravinsky.
Preu gave a hard-edged bite to Stravinsky’s comic rhythmic irregularities and boldly contrasting instrumental colors. There were suavely played solos by oboist Keith Thomas, flutist Bruce Bodden and violinist Kelly Farris. There was a mad orchestral frenzy in the Tarentella. And the bombastic “Duetto” featuring string bassist Darryl Miyasato and trombonist David Matern seemed on the hilarious verge of turning into a college football fight song.
Moody, who grew up near Sandpoint, made his professional debut with the Spokane Symphony when he was only 16. Now a graduate student at Rice University, Moody returned Sunday to play Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5. Moody seems still the slightly sly, serious, enormously talented player he was years ago. But he brought a professional sophistication to his highly intelligent, beautifully musical performance of this frequently played work. Moody’s tone was perfectly suited to Mozart’s lyricism, never overbearing but singing sweetly. He gave an especially moving account of the concerto’s slow movement – an instrumental version of an operatic love scene if ever there was one.
Moody did not exhibit the cocky self-assurance the teenage Mozart undoubtedly brought to this piece when he performed it, but there was evidence that he might one day view the piece a bit more brashly. Moody composed his own solo cadenzas and lead-in solo passages for the concerto, which incorporated witty harmonic twists and tantalizing pauses that point in a more frolicsome direction.
Preu selected another well-worn symphonic masterpiece to conclude Sunday’s concert, Haydn’s “Surprise” Symphony. Anyone who grew up with classical music or who listens to a classical radio station has heard this symphony many times. But Preu scraped the moss off and delivered several surprises, not just the famous explosive accent in the Andante that give the symphony its nickname.
For example, Preu told Sunday’s audience, it is not a courtly dance but a country dance. And his performance proved it with a tempo that swaggered and gave a tipsy lurch now and then.
Preu brought a cheery clarity to the symphony’s fast movements, giving an exceptional shine to a work that should never be allowed to dull with age.