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The second concert of the 2009-2010 Hendersonville Symphony Orchestra season provided our first opportunity to hear a complete classical program rehearsed and delivered in the new Blue Ridge Conference Hall. The hall was almost filled, with more than 700 in attendance. The organization may have to set up more of the stackable chairs in the future. Word is spreading about the surprisingly good acoustics of this multi-purpose facility at Blue Ridge Community College.
Ludwig van Beethoven's Overture, “The Consecration of the House,” began the program. The orchestra performed the intense double fugue that ends the work with clarity. Beethoven's Symphony No. 4 in B-flat followed. Music Director Thomas Joiner is programming a complete Beethoven symphony cycle over five years, and it was time for the Fourth. Most orchestras tend to rotate through the four major odd-numbered works: the Third Symphony (“Eroica”), the Fifth, the Seventh and the Ninth (“Choral”). They give an occasional nod to the Sixth Symphony (“Pastorale”), and less frequently the First and the Eighth get performed, but the Second and the Fourth are seldom heard.
And it is a pity that the Fourth is heard so seldom. It is a fine classical symphony, beginning with a long Adagio passage in which you imagine earnest footsteps treading towards you in serene expectation. The Allegro Vivace then bursts upon you and you are bathed in confidence and happy nobility. The Adagio, which always reminds me of Beethoven's opera Fidelio, contains fine woodwind passages that were ably delivered by Principal Clarinet Shannon Thompson and Acting Principal Oboe Petrea Warneck. After the Menuetto (in which the orchestra was not quite so crisp), the players got into better synchronism for the final Allegro.
Following intermission, Alexander Borodin's “In the Steppes of Central Asia” was performed. The woodwinds again distinguished themselves, but not all the French horn attacks were as crisp as might be desired. As in the Menuetto of the Beethoven, the strings did not always move in section unison. Playing in a hall whose acoustics do not blur rapid passages, the upper strings especially need to pay more attention to their precision.
Soloist in Sergei Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 1 in D-flat was Marina Lomazov, whose formidable technique at no time interfered with her musicianship. The intense short work, in one movement with three sections that resemble the classical concerto form, is replete with octave passages and typical Prokofiev harmonies. Her mastery of the work was stunning.
In response to great applause, Ms. Lomazov delivered a solo encore, a ragtime piece by American composer William Bolcom with amusing pieces of stage business such as foot stomping, hand slapping the piano wood, and even a brief passage that is whistled. Her deadpan delivery was most effective.
Ms. Lomazov studied at Kiev Conservatory before her family emigrated from the Ukraine to the United States. In the United States, she studied at Juilliard School and Eastman School of Music. I had spoken earlier in the day to Lomazov about her Eastman teacher Barry Snyder. She smiled, touched her heart, and remarked how Barry played from his heart. In turn, she plays from her heart and has touched our hearts. Now that she is on the faculty of the University of South Carolina, with summers as faculty at the Brevard Music Center, we look forward to hearing her often in our area. The passion and sensitivity of Marina Lomazov are the mark of a true artist.