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Arkansas Symphony Orchestra: 'Legends'

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Oct. 22, Robinson Center Music Hall

The featured work on the Arkansas Symphony's second Masterworks concert last Saturday evening was Brahms First Piano Concerto with Norman Krieger as soloist. The concerto is something of a signature piece for Krieger and he did it full justice, making the devilishly difficult work seem no big thing. Also, the orchestra under music director Philip Mann perfectly captured the sonorous quality of Brahms writing, and Mann maintained an excellent dynamic between the piano and the various sections of the orchestra. The work received a standing ovation from the audience, who brought Krieger out for two solo bows.

The concert opened with a workmanlike rendition of Haydn's Symphony #59, not one of the master's more memorable efforts. I would have preferred Mann to have reduced the number of string players, creating a more transparent sound and a better balance between the strings and the two oboes and two horns that made up the rest of the ensemble. Nonetheless, the entrance of the horns toward the end of the second movement was suitably restrained. They were a bit rough, however, when opening the last movement; but when the motif was repeated toward the end, the problem had been corrected.

Following the Haydn, the orchestra performed the Lucent Variations by the contemporary composer, Michael Torke. Torke takes a short, minimalist tune and treats it to a set of variations in more or less classical form. It was very well played, and an interesting and colorful, even delightful piece. Yet, I still had the feeling that Torke could have done with one or two fewer variations. But Mann and the orchestra, especially timpanist Rick Dimond, were obviously having a great deal of fun.

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