On Saturday, the Asheville Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Maestro Daniel Meyer, presented Masterworks 4 – titled Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake – and also featuring violinist Elena Urioste. This melancholy program featured works by Golijov, Barber, Ravel, and Tchaikovsky.

It is always a pleasure for me to review the ASO, as its players, director, guests, and program selections are always stellar, and Masterworks 4 continued that trend.

The concert opened with the “slow” tango “Muertes del Angel” by Argentine composer Osvaldo Golijov. This piece (an excerpt from the larger work Last Round, composed as a tribute to the great Astor Piazzolla) was originally scored for two string quartets featuring a lone double bass player as the focal point between the two opposing ensembles. The ASO expanded upon this a great deal, featuring nearly every string player in the ensemble, likely drawing from Golijov’s own transcription of Last Round for orchestra. Their presentation maintained the spirit of the original, featuring their bass section in center stage, with two distinct string choirs on either side. In short, the ASO absolutely astounded from the very beginning. Perfect intonation, phrasing, and passion radiated from the orchestra, seamlessly delivering the composer’s message directly to the hearts and souls of the audience; a preamble for what was to come.

To conclude the first half of the evening, the ASO invited out their guest performer, renowned violinist Elena Urioste, to perform the Samuel Barber Concerto for Violin and Orchestra. Between the orchestra, Maestro Meyer, and herself, the Concerto was what I believe Barber envisioned when he composed the piece. Every detail of the work fit perfectly with the players, expressing the drama and fire of Barber’s work at the highest level. My only regret is that I did not get to hear more from Urioste, as her ethereal playing was absolutely a high point for the evening.

After a heart-wrenching interpretation of Ravel’s “Pavane pour une infant défunte,” the orchestra geared up for the title work of the night, selections from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. An interesting choice by Maestro Meyer and the ASO was to not give the audience a synopsis of the work nor indicate which movements of the work were to be performed, rather letting the music and themes speak for themselves. Hearing the work performed, I found myself longing to experience the ballet in its entirety. There were so many great moments chosen for this performance that it felt like a teaser of the orchestra preparing to present the complete work (an event I would definitely love to see and hear). Once more, the only complaint I have for the night is that it ended much too soon.

Asheville is quite fortunate to have an orchestra of such high caliber, as I have no doubt the Asheville Symphony Orchestra has the potential to become one of the great ensembles of the world if they so choose.

The Asheville Symphony Orchestra will next perform Masterworks 5 – Beethoven and the Romantic with pianist Alon Goldstein on March 15th at the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium. For details, click here.