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Orchestra soars with Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto | FIDDLESTYLES

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

Orchestra soars with Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto

In the Wichita Falls Symphony Orchestra’s “All-Orchestral Oriental Delights” concert Saturday night at Memorial Auditorium, one piece soared above the others — the audience favorite, “The Butterfly Lovers” Violin Concerto, with its beautiful, heart-wrenching melodies delivered with such lyricism by the WFSO’s concertmaster, Kristin Van Cleve.It’s no wonder why the 26-minute work, by composers He Zhan-Hao and Chen Gang, has stood the test of time. The composition is based on an ancient “Romeo and Juliet”-like Chinese legend about two lovers who are only united after their deaths, when their spirits are transformed into butterflies. What’s interesting about the piece is that it was written for Western orchestras, but its solo violin speaks of Chinese musical traditions.Van Cleve was at her strongest when she played the slow, sad, lovers’ melody. Her portamento technique is without reproach.Slightly more challenging for Van Cleve seemed to be the quicker-paced sections of the work and those incessant spicattos. Still, Van Cleve, with the orchestra behind her, easily conveyed the emotional resonance of the work, and that emotion translated easily to the audience. She received a standing ovation at the end of the performance.The Candler Schaffer-led orchestra also debuted “In the Mind’s Eye — Images for Horns and Orchestra,” a composition the WFSO co-commissioned with the Indianapolis Symphony.Taking the spotlight for this piece were horn players William Scharnberg, Karen Houghton, Jason Lewis and Dennis Houghton. The three-movement work was inspired by the brush strokes in five different paintings. Each movement is distinctive and separate from one another.The first movement is an abstract piece that ends quite abruptly. It is dedicated to abstract expressionism and was inspired by contemporary artist Ingrid Calame. The second movement is much sadder, introspective and dramatically fluid, with strings whose sound keeps descending. It is based on Robert E. Weaver’s “Daniel in the Lion’s Den” and addresses the concept of faith. The third movement, the best movement of the work, deals with artists’ fascination with the light’s reflection, particularly on water. This is where the horn players really get to show their stuff — and they do in this magical movement, which begins grandly, exuberantly and optimistically.Horns were made for that kind of triumphant heralding sound, and it’s in this movement that the horns definitely get to do just that.The composition is not tied together from movement to movement, with no particular melody segueing the piece or bringing all the movements together.Scharnberg, Lewis, Karen Houghton and Dennis Houghton give it their all, though the orchestra overpowers them occasionally in the work. Still, they, too, received a standing ovation from the audience.The WFSO also turned in the 10-minute “In the Steppes of Central Asia” by Alexander Borodin, a piece depicting a caravan of Asians escorted by Russian troops. You can really hear the galumphing and trodding of the caravan with the sweeping sound of the orchestra piping in. The second half featured “The Pleasure Dome of Kubla-Khan” by Charles T. Griffes, a work brimming with mystery and drama. Again, the horn section wows in this piece as a wall of brass strongly and crisply delivers this work.It’s a shame this “All-Orchestral” concert wasn’t better attended. The “Butterfly Lovers” Violin Concerto wasn’t to be missed. And it was wonderful to hear some of the orchestra’s own musicians get the spotlight. Among the ranks of the WFSO are some talented musicians.Up next for the symphony is its Christmas concert Dec. 11 featuring The Living Christmas Card.

via Orchestra soars with Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto » Times Record News.

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