Symphony’s finale is spirited if bittersweet
It is the season finale but the music will not stop. The musicians are there, the audience is there and the money is slowly coming. An anonymous donation of $1.175 million and tonight's fundraising gala at the Hawaii Convention Center will pay back the musicians for the several weeks without compensation, and hopefully provide security for the near future.
Season finale with Naoto Otomo, conductor; and soloists Ignace Jang, violin, and Mark Wong, organ:
» In concert: 4 p.m. tomorrow
» Place: Blaisdell Concert Hall
» Tickets: $21 to $74, with 20 percent discount for students, military and seniors; available at Ticketmaster outlets (877) 750-4400
» Call: 524-0815, ext. 245, or visit www.honolulusymphony.com
However exciting the news turned out to be, the finale is a bitter-sweet program, with some fireworks and some melancholy. Framed by two bulky works, Von Weber's Overture to the opera "Freischütz" and Saint-Saëns' "Organ Symphony," Mozart's charming Violin Concerto No. 3 adds a light accent.
On Thursday, the concerto showcased concertmaster Ignace "Iggy" Jang in a balanced and sensible performance. The piece, an old friend of Jang's, gives the soloist all chances to shine, and he did not disappoint. In particular, in the famous slow second movement, he expressed his musicality with graceful, sometimes pensive, phrasing. He may have played this concerto for many years, but he surely has not tired of it.
Saint-Saëns' work, instead, is like a beast. Not a scary one but still an unpredictable creature. What's with the organ? Is it there or not? Only in the second movement do we hear it -- and not blasting, as we would expect, but in luxuriant reverberations that complement the orchestral texture. A real bliss of sounds, and organist Mark Wong did his job.
And is there a piano? Only in the "Allegro Moderato" do we realize it is there. But in the last movement all the instruments finally create a very satisfying, solid body of sounds.
Japanese conductor Naoto Otomo led the Honolulu Symphony with elegance, and the musicians, especially in the "Organ Symphony," embraced the challenge with vigor, even if a hint of tiredness tinted the evening.
The musicians' jobs have been particularly challenging in the last month due to their financial incertitude. But we hope to see all of them in the next Halekulani Masterworks season in a face-lifted series of concerts.
The 2008-2009 season will include all-Strauss and all-Brahms programs; Gioacchino's "Ratatouille: Suite and Savory" (yes, Ratatouille of the movie, and yes, the same composer who wrote the music for "Lost"); an all-Russian evening; an all-American composers' program (finally!); several great piano soloists; the return of "Carmina Burana"; and more Mozart.
The great novelty will be a two-week Beethoven festival in the spring, offering four different concerts. Lots to look forward to.
Valeria Wenderoth has a doctorate in musicology from the University of Hawaii-Manoa, where she also teaches.