Sing the heart symphonic
North State Symphony delivers a stellar night of classics
Kyle Wiley Pickett moved with relaxed precision as he led the 65-member North State Symphony through A Comedy, A Classic, A Cry From the Heart, the second concert of the season in Chico State’s Laxson Auditorium.
The stellar program consisted of the overture to Gioachino Rossini’s famous bel canto opera, The Barber of Seville, Austro-Hungarian composer Arnold Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht ("Transfigured Night") and Beeth-oven’s Symphony No. 4, Opus 60.
Pickett, who also fills the conductor post of Alaska’s Juneau Symphony, had prepped a large segment of his audience at a well-attended, pre-concert Conversation with the Conductor in the Ruth Rowland Taylor Recital Hall, just across the lawn from Laxson. His engaging talk was sprinkled with compelling tidbits of inside historical info, such as how an out-of-tune guitarist and a cat pacing the stage helped ruin the original opening night of Rossini’s Barber of Seville.
After warming up with the “Star-Spangled Banner,” the symphony eased into the program with Rossini’s overture, with the violin section sweetly bowing a melody line while the cellists plucked their strings in accompaniment. Almost immediately noticeable were the delicacy and accuracy of the string section, a quality that extended throughout the performance (even the brisk fourth movement of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4).
Clearly, Pickett’s sensitive leadership as conductor (and musical director) works to bring out the best, most highly nuanced performance from his able players.
After Rossini, approximately half an hour was dedicated to Schoenberg’s moving Verklärte Nacht. Based on early-20th-century German poet Richard Dehmel’s poem of the same name about two lovers walking through a dark forest, Schoenberg’s version (as Pickett pointed out in his pre-concert talk) attempts to capture in music the emotion behind the words of Dehmel’s work, as well as a feeling of the setting of the poem.
Pickett described it as “the last Romantic piece of music.” Before launching into the impressive piece, he had different sections of the orchestra give musical examples of, for instance, how the poem’s lovers’ footsteps are represented by low, moody tones from the cellos, complemented by an added higher melody from the violas.
The deep lows of the double basses added to the serious mood that was immediately established by the string players, fitting perfectly with the opening words of Dehmel’s poem: “Two people walk through a bare, cold grove.”
As the musical tension built onstage (paralleling the tension in the poem after the woman tells her lover that she is pregnant, but with another man’s child), one could almost hear the words of the poem being spoken and imagine the lovers walking through the woods.
Concertmaster Terrie Baune’s high, plaintive violin solo early in the piece—preceding a somewhat similar line echoed by the violas—was exquisite. The interplay between Baune and principal cellist Carol Jacobson later in the piece was lovely as well.
Following an intermission—during which the Chico Country Day School Strings, directed by Shelley Fairchild, admirably performed the “Allegro” from the Autumn concerto from Antonio Vivaldi’s Four Seasons—the symphony concluded its pleasing program with one of Beethoven’s lesser-played symphonies, No. 4.
The woodwinds figured prominently (and delightfully) in sections of the first movement, and it was refreshing to hear the trumpets add some punch to movement two, the “Adagio.”
The feisty fourth movement contained impressive, fast runs from the violin section, and a snappy bassoon solo. After a series of dramatic crescendos and decrescendos, Beethoven’s beautiful 4th Symphony, and the concert, ended, leaving audience members to walk out into the night with a feeling that they had spent their last two hours very well.