The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra's performance Saturday at the Robinson Center under the direction of guest conductor George Hanson proved to be unique and memorable despite the standard all-German program. The performance was this season's third installment of the Stella Boyle Smith Masterworks Series. Maestro Hanson is one of the final five music director candidates auditioning for the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra position.
Hanson's vast conducting experience showed in the conveyance of the emotion from Johannes Brahms' Tragic Overture, Op. 81. There was a sense of urgency in his conducting, showing the orchestral players his desire to communicate in 15 minutes the range of tragic emotions one goes through in a lifetime.
Following the Brahms, 25-year-old cellist Joshua Roman joined the orchestra in a rendition of Schumann's Cello Concerto. Roman is a rising star in the classical music scene only a year removed from a two-year stint as the principal cellist of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra. At first, the vast space of the Robinson Center proved to be working against his effort to project the sound amply toward the audience. His solo lines, although very sweet in tone, were lacking in dynamic contrast and arch-phrasing. However, as the piece moved forward, Hanson seemed to understand the situation and deftly maneuvered the orchestra to converse with the soloist. As a result, Roman's sound seemed to swell and the orchestra was equally involved as the cello.
In short, the evening's performance of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony was exhilarating.
The sound of the orchestra, both as individuals and as a group, was full of vitality. The orchestra was in sync with the conductor throughout the performance. The trust between the orchestra and Hanson was evident in the way the multitude of exquisite lines and emotional outbursts never exceeded the large formal structure.