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Tuesday, October 8, 2013
The Roanoke Symphony’s milestone 60th season began Monday night under Maestro David Stewart Wiley with internationally renowned cellist Zuill Bailey as the featured soloist. A near-capacity audience of 1,700 enjoyed a concert of generally Romantic works at the Roanoke Performing Arts Theatre.
The program, titled “Symphonic Splendour,” allowed the large orchestra of more than 80 players to display a highly variegated but tight ensemble. Bailey’s contribution to the evening’s success was exceptional.
As a special extra feature, the Roanoke Youth Symphony played at the beginning with a riveting account of Reinhold Gliere’s popular “Russian Sailor’s Dance.” James Glazebrook led the young musicians in a polished performance. Among the talented group of 74 players, the percussion and strings played with particular distinction.
The Roanoke Symphony then took over for the rest of the program, starting with Franz von Suppe’s delightful “Light Cavalry Overture.” From the opening trumpet fanfares, the piece moved along with military precision, thanks to Wiley’s energetic and commanding baton. The rousing work provided a suitable showcase for the many talented musicians in the ensemble, including the lovely playing of clarinetist Carmen Eby.
Soloist Bailey then joined the orchestra for Erich Korngold’s relatively brief but complex Cello Concerto in C, Op. 37. Whether playing strong forceful chords at the outset, or the intricate flourishes of the solo cadenzas near the end, Bailey proved to be a complete master of his instrument.
The orchestra provided a lush background, especially in the rich-textured violin section, led ably by concertmaster Akemi Takayama. Throughout the concerto, Wiley was in sympathetic support, providing the necessary cues and sensitive accompaniment.
To close off the concert, the second half was given to Richard Strauss’ striking tone poem “Don Quixote” in which the cello soloist plays the role of the “gentleman from La Mancha.”
Here, Bailey showed complete engagement in the emotional states of his character, whether it was in the musings of confused philosophies or the obsessive love of his idealized Dulcinea. To convey these expressive shifts, the cello sang and rumbled, quivered and shouted, with an amazing range of colors. Indeed Bailey proved that the most beautiful sounds in music are those of incredible softness and delicacy. The apotheosis near the end of the piece proved to be a truly glorious moment of music making.
The orchestra, under the inspired direction of Wiley, made an ideal partner with the soloist. A myriad of solo spots given to various players were all expertly played, but special plaudits must go to the agile and sonorous viola of Kathleen Overfield-Zook, who took on the role of Quixote’s side kick Sancho Panza, as well as the exquisite tones of oboist Bill Parrish intoning Dulcinea’s sensuous melody.
Altogether it was a magical evening of great music, and one that bodes well for the rest of the o rchestra’s diamond anniversary season.
Timothy Gaylard is professor of music at Washington and Lee University.
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