Symphonia Adept at Modern Too

Soundings: by John Shulson

(First printed in the Virginia Gazette)

The Williamsburg Symphonia, under Janna Hymes, in the Little “Immolation,” Faure “Masques et Bergamasques,” Mahler “Adagietto” from Symphony No.5, and Schumann Symphony No. 2 in C Major, in the Kimball Theatre, May 16.

Janna Hymes is what a music director and conductor should be—a leader who has the best interests of her musicians and audience in mind when selecting a program. There’s that constant need to challenge the orchestra for growth and the need to provide the audience music that not only provides enjoyment but also education.

The latest example of this sense of fine balance excellence came with the closing program of the current music season. Hymes superbly fashioned a program that more than met the challenges, starting with the opening “Immolation” of David Little. The Symphonia doesn’t do contemporary or modern music all that often. Based on the quality performance given “Immolation,” more would be desired. The work is highly rhythmic in a very alluring way; it builds levels of interest in shifting patterns and sounds that result in an appealing urgency. Far from minimalist in nature, it’s a work rich in structure that provided a very exciting and invigorating opening to the evening.

Far less energetic than the Little were the more refined sounds of “Masques et Bergamasques” of Faure. With its delicacy of design that harkens back to the days of French aristocracy and commedia dell’arte, the Symphonia beautifully sketched the lines of this elegant piece into a rococo-inspired musical painting worthy of Watteau.

From the sublime to the more sublime, Hymes offered one of Mahler’s most exquisitely conceived works, the “Adagietto” from his Symphony No.5. The “Adagietto’s” dreamy, meditative nature can only be realized by the utmost of expression in the playing. Here, the Symphonia’s strings and harp dug deep into the soul of Mahler and brought to it an appropriate sense of the sublime. It was a particularly moving, emotionally poignant performance that found the Symphonia at a high point in expressiveness and elegance.

The fare closed on a “wow” of a note with Schumann’s Symphony No. 2 in C Major. A work that blends dark themes with those more uplifting, traits that reflected his bipolar nature, the C Major found the Symphonia and Hymes in total control of the composition’s many levels of emotion. From the brooding unrest of the Allegro through the exquisite Adagio to the joyous Allegro finale, the musicians performed with exactness, expression, energy, and perfection that left absolutely nothing to be desired.

Assuredly, this well-conceived program was a delight to hear, especially when played with such finesse. Truly a first class moment.

Hold your seat or more appropriately grab one. The Symphonia League will soon be full speed ahead into a fall fund drive centered on children’s desk chairs that will be turned into works of art. A new take on musical chairs. Proceeds will go toward one of the League’s missions to provide instruments to deserving students who otherwise might not be able to take part in music programs. Watch for details.

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