BSO, soloist capture spell of Bernstein’s “Serenade”



Review

ORONO — The Bangor Symphony Orchestra’s Sunday concert opened with the overture to the only ballet Beethoven wrote,The Creatures of Prometheus,” in a brisk performance led by the orchestra’s music director, Lucas Richman.

The spirited, engaging piece began dramatically with a series of chords boldly proclaimed by the full orchestra. The opening slow section, which featured the wind section, led to a sparkling allegro reminiscent of Mozart’s opera overtures.

From Prometheus to Plato, the concert continued with Leonard Bernstein’s “Serenade” (after Plato’s “Symposium”) for solo violin, string orchestra with harp, and percussion. Written in 1954, the piece was originally titled “Symposium” but the composer ultimately rejected that as being too academic for a musical portrayal of the dialogue, the subject of which is the nature of love.

Sunday’s soloist, Chloe Trevor, opened the “Serenade in a solo lament that was then taken up by the orchestra’s strings. The movement progressed through a jaunty dance, alternating with snippets of Viennese waltz, peppered with echoes of “West Side Story, and here and there, an homage to Stravinsky. The second movement contained charming lyricism laced by piquant orchestral commentary.

Trevor was fully in command of the work’s extreme technical demands, notably in the helter-skelter third movement, where the orchestra matched her note for note. The fourth movement was haunting, the soloist’s quietly sustained final note bringing a sense of peace.

The orchestra laid out a powerfully evocative landscape for the final movement, after which principal cellist Noreen Silver joined Trevor in a poignant duet. With an abrupt interruption, the orchestra and soloist launched into a noisy and constantly changing bacchanal. The Bangor Symphony shone in Bernstein’s brilliant orchestration, with fine detail provided by harpist Mo Nichols and an expanded percussion section.

The rest of the concert was devoted to Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 4.” During the pre-concert discussion, Maestro Richman remarked that Beethoven’s even-numbered symphonies are generally overlooked in favor of the first, fifth, seventh, and ninth, but that the fourth symphony is a personal favorite.

Written in 1806, six years after “The Creatures of Prometheus” the composer’s increasing deafness never dampened the two works’ sunny and cheerful mood. On Sunday, the very quiet opening created a sense of anticipation. As things erupted, Richman made the most of a moment of silence before taking the orchestra into a brisk, confident performance, with points of arrival well prepared.

The slow second movement was expressive but slightly less successful in maintaining forward momentum. The orchestra’s woodwinds stood out in the playfully exuberant third movement, and a dazzling finale brought the concert to a high-spirited end.