Review: Steamboat Springs Orchestra finale concert a success

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— Budget constraints caused by the economic downturn necessitated an abbreviation of the program intended for the Steamboat Springs Orchestra's season finale concert April 5. The Saturday performance was canceled, as were selections from Mozart's "Don Giovanni." Most disappointing was that we didn't hear Steamboat Springs Orchestra director and conductor Ernest Richardson's "Concerto for Violin and Cello." This reviewer often recalls a previous work of his, the beautifully titled elegy to Hiroshima, "In Memory of the Falling of a Man-made Star."

It should be noted that the musicians and Richardson were kind enough to donate their time for Sunday's concert.

The excellent venue of the Steamboat Christian Center was packed beyond capacity for the concert's remaining piece, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's (1840-93) "Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64." John Williams' sure-fire crowd-pleaser, "Flight to Neverland," was added as an encore.

Tchaikovsky was sufficient for me. I would just as soon have left my brain less cluttered, full as it was with Tchaikovsky's lovely melodies, many of which are derived from Russian folk tunes, giving the work a distinctly Russian flavor. Unlike Bartok's work based on gypsy tunes that remain such, Tchaikovsky's folk tunes are elevated to the realm of pure emotion. The melodies are at times overpowered by notes rising up and creating turbulence, like flocks of birds or the exaltations of larks. We must be patient. The melody will return. I think the key to appreciating this symphony is to follow the melodies.

As is the custom, the symphony is in four movements. The first, "Andante, Allegro con anima," begins with the theme being established by clarinet. This theme threads its way through the entire symphony.

The second movement, "Andante cantabile, con alcuna licenza," begins with a theme established with a horn solo, which then is answered by the oboe. The entire orchestra joins in then to work these themes to an eventual crescendo.

The third movement, "Valse: Allegro moderato," begins with a waltz rather than the usual scherzo. At first, it is distinctly a waltz and remains so, although it becomes overlain with other melodies. This is a quiet movement, a respite from the turmoil and violence of the others.

The fourth movement, "Andante maestroso, Allegro vivace," is jubilant and triumphant. Shortly before the actual end there is a pause - a moment of silence before the final emotional storm.

That Tchaikovsky could compose at all was remarkable. By all rights, he ought to have been a complete basket case. He was a closet homosexual who lived in constant fear of being outed, and he went so far to hide his sexual preference as to marry a woman who, as luck would have it, was possessed of an inordinately strong sexual appetite. She was later committed to an insane asylum.

He also was a hypochondriac. For some time, he was afraid his head would fall off if he did not hold it on, making conducting something of a chore. He must have been miserable, but no doubt his misery imbued his music with its super-charged level of emotion. Unlike so many great composers, his work seems to lack mathematical rigor, but rather is layer upon layer with intrusions of pure emotion.

Sunday's concert was sponsored by William and Kristine Bensler.

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