published Friday, November 4th, 2011

Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 gets focus in Chattanooga Symphony concert

By Mel R. Wilhoit/Correspondent

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For the third Masterworks concert in the Chattanooga Symphony season, the No. 5 took the spotlight on Thursday evening at the Tivoli Theatre as Maestra Kayoko Dan put her ensemble through its paces.

The program began with J. S. Bach's "Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in D Major." This work is a chamber piece for a small string group and three soloists -- a violin (principal second, Sheri Peck), a flute (principal Janet Hale) and a harpsichord (guest Philip Thomas). Bach probably composed this as a type of demonstration piece for a potential employer, of which nothing came about. In fact, the music was forgotten for over a century. But once discovered, it has become a jewel in the musical crown.

The first two movements of this three-movement work were absolutely glorious as the flute and violin played a rollicking game of musical tag. The harpsichord then offered an extended fantasia section that was amazing.

The second movement was played by the three soloists alone, displaying gorgeous tone and wonderful musical sensitivity. The final movement featured the entire ensemble, revealing the genius of Bach and the impressive talent of these musicians.

A larger group of players gathered for the second selection, Mozart's "Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat." This lesser known work -- also in three movements -- is a cross between a symphony and a concerto. It featured principal players Robert West, clarinet; Robert Burks, oboe; Gordon James, horn; and Eric Anderson, bassoon.

While most of their playing was often in tandem with the orchestra, their tone, beauty of line and flawless ensemble made a strong case that this major work deserves more attention. It was a wonderful addition to the evening's traditional fare.

And traditional was the fare after the intermission with the No. 5 returning in the form of Beethoven's "Fifth Symphony in C minor," the one that goes da-da-da-dumm. It's usually interpreted as the composer grappling with fate -- probably his growing deafness -- and winning the contest as the final movement celebrates life in a triumphal C major march.

While the ensemble wasn't quite as solid as earlier outings this season, Maestra Dan demonstrated some fresh ideas and displayed careful attention to dynamics. The conclusion of movement two produced some magical moments. The two successive movements seemed to grow in focus and intensity to bring it all to a rousing conclusion which the large and enthusiastic crowd applauded wildly.

The concert will be repeated this evening at 8.

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