Saturday, April 5, 2014

Concert Reviews: Moody Symphonic Band and Salonen conducts Sibelius (Chicago Symphony Orchestra)

When I began this week, I had no hard plans to attend any concerts, but I came to the end of the week having attended and enjoyed two very different musical experiences.

David Gauger II leads the Moody Symphonic Band
On Sunday evening, I attended a performance by the Moody Symphonic Band from the Moody Bible Institute at a church on the northwest side of the city. A member of the band is a fellow congregant at Calvary Memorial Church, and invited me when we passed in the hall after service that morning. I was pleased to be able to accept the invitation, as it had been some time since I had heard any of the Moody music ensembles.

The Moody Symphonic Band, under the direction of David Gauger II, performed a wide selection of repertoire, including a number of pieces I had played when I was in a college band. The concert was anchored thematically by the life of King David. In between selections, different members of the band would give a monologue, acting as one of the characters from that story – Samuel, Jonathan, and so on. It was a beautiful performance.

The concert poster outside Symphony Center
Then on Thursday evening, I attended a performance by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. I had this particular program, “Salonen conducts Sibelius,” and date on my calendar since last summer, but it was only that morning, realizing that I was on schedule with all my work and could take an evening off, did I buy a ticket.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of frequent guest conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen, offered a program of three very substantial works, spanning from the Romantic to Contemporary eras. The program began with <<rewind<<, a tone poem by Anna Clyne, one of the CSO’s composers-in-residence. I heard a Clyne composition two years ago at the CSO (Night Ferry), and this one was similar in her use of “layering” (as she herself wrote in the program notes).

Second on the program was Bartók’s Suite from The Miraculous Mandarin. I became familiar with this piece about four years ago, when I used it in a research paper during undergrad. It was fun to hear it again without having to analyze it! Bruce Yeh was excellent on the clarinet solos – all the soloists on this piece were excellent, truthfully.

After the intermission was the piece I was most looking forward to: Four Legends from the Kalevala, Op. 22 of Jean Sibelius. Sibelius is one of my favorite composers, but, as I have discovered, his music is not among the most often performed (regrettable, in my opinion). I did not know the Kalevala set, and was interested to read in the program notes before hand that the finale, according to program annotator Phillip Huscher, was even more exciting than that of the Second Symphony. The ending of Sibelius’ Symphony No. 2 is one of the more exciting moments of Western music, I think, so I was even more interested to hear the ending of Kalevala to compare. And exciting it was! Though I am still a fan of that Second Symphony…

The Moody Symphonic Band has unfortunately given their last regular concert of the season, but the CSO will repeat their Salonen conducts Sibelius program tonight and on Tuesday. Read more about that program in John Von Rhein's review of the Thursday performance for the Chicago Tribune.

Have you heard any concerts lately? Share your reactions in the comments section below!

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