April 15, 2012 - 20:06 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra’s sixth Masterworks program of the season is an opportunity to admire signal works by three composers who were absolute masters of their craft, able to manipulate all parts of the orchestra in the service of their musical vision, pennlive.com reports.
The April 14 night’s performance at The Forum in downtown Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, also provided an exceptionally fine chance to appreciate the skill level of HSO’s musicians and that of Maestro Stuart Malina.
The program featured Armenian composer Aram Khachaturian’s melodious Suite No. 2 from “Spartacus,” American Aaron Copland’s slam-bang take on “Billy the Kid” and the German Richard Strauss’ insightful interpretation of the Cervantes novel “Don Quixote.”
All three pieces are centered around larger-than-life characters, setting a stage for big dreams and evocative musical themes by three of the 20th century’s leading composers of orchestral music.
The program opened with the Adagio of Spartacus and Phrygia from Khachaturian’s 1956 ballet “Spartacus,” based on the legends surrounding a gladiator who rebelled against Rome, leading an army of slaves against the empire’s mighty legions.
Malina called the adagio “one of the great guilty pleasures of classical music.”
Copland’s “Billy the Kid” suite is also taken from a ballet, which he premiered in 1938 and became the first of three - “Rodeo” and “Appalachian Spring” are the others - he wrote using the Western themes and music for which he is so well known today.
Closing out the evening is Strauss’ tone poem about the famed knight errant Don Quixote, who literally tilts at windmills as Quixote’s fevered mind translates common things like a flock of harmless sheep into an evil army he must defeat.
Quixote is portrayed musically through the work’s 10 episodes by Thompson, who also plays cello with the well-known Mendelssohn Piano Trio. Violist Wirth chips in frequently as the “voice” of Quixote sidekick Sancho Panza.