The Spokane Symphony and conductor Eckart Preu said goodbye to the orchestra’s 2005-06 Opera House season Friday with a highly varied program that also included song and dance.
But in another side to the farewell, the players and the audience said goodbye to Kelly Farris, the violinist who has served as symphony’s concertmaster for the past 37 years. The audience acknowledged Farris’ retirement with a standing ovation as he entered the stage.
Later in the concert, Farris received accolades and gifts from Preu and his colleagues. But there was music to be made, and Farris and his colleagues put that first.
Preu opened the program with Richard Strauss’ symphonic impressions of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” – the first and the least frequently played of the composer’s several symphonic poems. “Macbeth” tends to sprawl. But the work was well played and showed Strauss’ brilliant handling of large orchestral forces even at 23.
The Symphony Chorale took the stage with two choral works Giuseppe Verdi wrote when he was very old – the unaccompanied “Ave Maria” and the “Stabat Mater” with full orchestral accompaniment from his Four Sacred Pieces. The chorale’s good intonation, rich tone and fine diction were quite impressive, particularly in the difficult almost otherworldly “Ave Maria.”
The “Stabat Mater” with its graphic musical text was very much in the spirit of Verdi’s famous Requiem.
Following intermission, Preu introduced the Opera House audience to Leos Janacek’s Overture to his last opera, “From the House of the Dead.”
The orchestra and Preu made an excellent case for the mosaic style of this composer. The overture featured Farris Michael Price in solo passages obviously spun from the violin concerto that was shelved when Janacek began this opera.
The remainder of Friday’s concert centered on ballet. Mimi Ewers danced the famous “Dying Swan” solo that Mikhail Fokine choreographed for Anna Pavlova to music by Saint-Saens. Ewers affecting fatal grace was matched by the smooth ease of the solo cello of Joy Adams.
The concert ended with the suite from Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake.” Precision and grace characterized the dancing of Amanda Cochrane, Kjersti Cubberley, Leyna Swoboda and Mami Koshifuji from the Theater Ballet Company of Spokane in “The Dance of the Swans.”
The same could be said of the solo playing of Farris, cellist John Marshall and other orchestral soloists in the suite’s seven movements. As an encore, Farris took another chance to shine in the Grand Adagio from Glazunov’s ballet “Raymonda.”
Friday’s concert was a splendid tribute to the state of the Spokane Symphony and the role Farris has played for so long in its growth.