Music Review: Sarasota Orchestra:'Portraits in Passion'

 
 

The Sarasota Orchestra knows what good is, and on a recent Saturday night, it presented “A Thrilling Multi-Media Experience: Portraits in Passion,” featuring four of its own in a quartet of showstoppers.

By way of introduction, a brief well-produced video was shown, featuring the instrumentalists as tiny tots holding the towering instruments they would eventually grow to master.

First up was principal bassoonist Fernando Traba, who’s been with the orchestra almost two decades. A second-generation bassoonist and winner of awards from Mexico to the Cleveland Institute and Juilliard, Traba (husband of flutist Betsy Traba), gave a warm, beautifully shaped performance of the Concertino for bassoon, harp and strings, by English composer Peter Hope.

Principal cellist Abraham Feder, who just graduated from the illustrious Curtis Institute, was next with Tchaikovsky’s “Variations on a Rococo Theme.” Charming, talented and extremely attuned to his cello, Feder drew colors from his instrument that could barely be topped by his flaming red hair. His attention to dynamics was particularly appealing.

Harpist Cheryl Losey, like Feder, joined the Sarasota Orchestra in 2008 and, like Traba, holds degrees from the Cleveland Institute. Debussy’s “Danses sacree et danse profane” were perfect for Losey’s richly textured and dynamically alluring style.

Principal hornist Joe Assi, also from Curtis, offered what was probably the most challenging piece, the e flat major horn concerto of Richard Strauss. Not a work for amateurs or apprehensive horn players, Assi is neither, and his solos spun with aplomb.

That leads us to these players’ colleagues, who, under the dynamic leadership of Leif Bjaland, do masterfully in ensemble. Opening with the world premiere of the orchestral version of Randall Woolf’s ballet, “Where the Wild Things Are,” based on the fantastical story by Maurice Sendak (with the composer in attendance), and closing with the equally fantastical but more musically interesting “Oh Lois!” from “Metropolis Symphony” by Michael Daugherty, every musician on stage glowed with talent and skill.

So, by the way, did the audience, which was packed with young, whistling, animated listeners, showing that Sarasota Orchestra is doing everything right. Hey, keep this up and classical music will become popular!

— June LeBell

 

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