IMAGO revealed

Northstate Symphony

The great disappointment of this past weekend’s “Festive” concert by the Northstate Symphony is that almost no one could see the four percussionist soloists in David Colson’s brilliant new IMAGO for Percussion and Orchestra. Imagine Yo-yo Ma playing the Dvorak Cello Concerto from the back of the orchestra!

Indeed, only the relatively few people in the balconies of Laxson Auditorium and Redding’s Shasta Learning Center could begin to appreciate totally the sweep of rhythms from side to side across the work’s four soloists (Colson, Dan Kinkle, Paul Herrick and David Lim), the wondrous array of instruments they used, the way they built a “music” of sounds as richly textured as those produced by strings and winds alone, and the visual interplay between Colson and Kinkle during the thunderous drumming “cadenza” that crowned the work’s last movement. By whatever means, the soloists should have been made visible to all.

I was also, I must say, somewhat confused by the work’s title, as the word “imago” suggests a kind of powerful paternal archetype deeply rooted in a particular culture. This made little sense to me as a listener, but then titles tend to be a bit capricious.

This problem aside, it was another, totally solid Northstate Symphony performance. A bit careful and deliberate in the Laxson performance, director Kyle Wiley Pickett loosened up and moved, in Redding’s acoustically splendid Shasta Learning Center and Red Bluff’s State Theater (Sunday evening), to more organically cohesive readings of the concert’s other two works, Mozart’s “Overture” to The Magic Flute and Schumann’s magnificent Rhenish Symphony. The “Overture” was clean and crisp, and the symphony, with its compelling, cleanly developed melodic lines, its impressive use of brasses, and its overwhelming Fourth Movement, which moves one into the Cologne Cathedral and up into its vast, organ-filled spaces, was generally very good.

The Redding audience applauded between movements, an old 19th-century custom. That, it seemed to me, was totally appropriate.