Symphony's own musicians shine in season finale
EVERY performance of this symphony season has been a winner and often a delightful surprise. Remarkable soloists and conductors have performed in an assortment of musical genres and styles, never missing a beat, and the orchestra has continued to get better.
In concert: 4 p.m. today
Place: Blaisdell Concert Hall
Tickets: $15 to $68
Call: 792-2000 or visit www.honolulu symphony.com
Returning audience favorites Lara St. John, Jennifer Koh and Jon Nakamatsu, and the Hawaii debuts of internationally celebrated Elmar Oliveira, Colin Currie and Samuel Ramey have more than fulfilled our expectations, and brilliant conductors such as Rossen Milanov, Roberto Minczuk and Sir David Willcocks have satisfied our demanding musical needs. But ending the season with Hawaii's favorite conductor Samuel Wong, Honolulu concertmaster Ignace Jang and principal cellist Mark Votapek as soloists is like putting a cherry on an already luscious pie.
Friday's concert showcased Votapek in Saint-Saëns' "Concerto for Violoncello No. 1" and Jang in two very different works, Vaughan Williams' "The Lark Ascending" and Sarasate's "Fantasy on Bizet's Carmen." Both musicians were in great shape and played tirelessly, even if performing at the end of a full season.
Scottish percussionist Colin Currie was one of the featured artists during the Honolulu Symphony's season.
During the Halekulani Masterworks series, we have occasionally had the chance to hear Votapek's cello in a few musical lines, and that was enough to understand his musicianship. In his interpretation of Saint-Saëns' work, however, we had the opportunity to hear how effortlessly he can reveal the instrument's colors and variety of registers. At the very beginning of the piece, after a short orchestral chord, his instrument played the main motif with verve and clarity. And his continual exchange with the orchestra, with which Votapek clearly felt comfortable, rendered the composer's idea of a seamless and unified work.
One meditative, the other effervescent, the two pieces Jang played engaged the violinist in technically challenging passages: the first, for the length and quality of the sounds, the second, for the quickness and quantity of notes to play. "The Lark Ascending" suggests the calm in an almost timeless scene described in a poem by British poet George Meredith. We saw the best of Jang's expressiveness in that work. The reflective eloquence of his interpretation communicated the tranquility of the piece. Then, he faced Sarasate's Fantasy with determination. With this series of uninterrupted arias from "Carmen," in which technical difficulties range from quick pizzicatos, double stops and harmonics, Jang enthused the audience.
The majestic Symphony No. 2 by Brahms concluded the evening with a truly grandiose interpretation by Wong. Conducting without a score, he tackled this prolix work with vigor and with the understanding of its complexity. Idyllic in its spirit and joyful in its character, the work ended the season in a positive note.
Valeria Wenderoth has a doctorate in musicology from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where she also teaches.