Spotlight on the Orchestra

Concert Review by Stephen Trott

November 11-12, 2017

We have much to be thankful for in Boise, and our exceptional Orchestra and its superb offerings are certainly high on the list. Last weekend our musicians’ extraordinary versatility was on display with Eric Garcia’s bold eclectic program: Music of the Americas.

Cecilia Violetta Lopez, our guest from Rupert who grew up hoeing beets, delivered a radiant rendition of Heitor Villa Lobos’ Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5, a touch of Bach blended with 10-carat Brazilian soul. Eight of our cellists accompanied her in this polished diamond, led by Ned Johnson with a solo that made us wish we had taken up his instrument. Yes, the violin may be the sound of the opening of the Gates of Paradise, but the sonorous warm voice of the cello welcomes us into the garden. Masterful work.

Not to be outdone, the entire string section then effortlessly combined to make Samuel Barber’s celestial Adagio for Strings glow with an elegiac intensity on its way to a climatic moment-of-truth possible only with bowed instruments. Eric’s dramatic interpretation was spot on.

After the intermission, Cecilia returned with Barber’s Knoxville Summer of 1915. Barber called it a “lyric rhapsody,” and Cecilia delivered once again, creating the right atmosphere for this poignant stream-of-consciousness retrospective which invokes found memories of a long ago childhood in Hometown America. It was all there, a warm summer’s evening, a gently rocking porch swing, a horse-drawn buggy, a “belling streetcar,” neighbors enjoying each other’s company, and quiet time with family.

What better to round out the evening than Aaron Copland’s Three Latin-American Sketches, adding the fertile sounds of Venezuela and Mexico to the feast. Copland’s tricky rhythms were easy pickings for our musicians, across the board. The piece included standout moments featuring Carmen Izzo’s clarinet, Peter Stampe’s oboe, Allison Emerick’s flute, and John Kilgore’s wonderfully emotive trumpet.

The concert began with a striking piece by the Argentinian composer Osvaldo Golijov as a homage to Astor Piazzolla, written in the shadow of Piazzolla’s death. Two string quartets -- led respectively and energetically by Geoffrey Trabichoff and Chia-Li Ho -- competed across the dance floor in a sublimated fiery tango, moderated in the middle by Chris Ammirati’s solid double bass keeping a steady rhythm under the quartets’ call and response format. Golijov’s second movement, the Death of Angels, is a lament, a heavy-hearted elegy to his departed inspiration. The strings created a flawless sense of one long sigh, of Golijov’s despair.

As an interesting note, two of us attended both concerts. What we discovered is that the audience experience in Brandt Auditorium is just as rewarding and satisfying as it is in the Morrison Center, in fact we thought especially so for the “smaller” pieces. Last Round was amazing, particularly the second movement, as was Bachiannas and Barber’s Adagio. So, if your seats are in Nampa, hold onto them; and if in Boise, do not be concerned if you have to switch to NNU. Both venues are a joy -- thanks to Eric and our splendid Orchestra.