Reviews and Articles written by William Noll
March 29, 2010
Review: Shostakovitch gets grand reading from SW Florida orchestra
Michael Hall, conductor
Michael Hall, conductor

Naples Daily News

FORT MYERS -Shostakovitch's Tenth Symphony was written following the death of Stalin in 1953. Aha! No more ideological repression, grotesque hidden political caricatures, or music written to please the authorities and government censors. The composer was now able to begin to create with a new sense of individualism and human expression.

Whenever you see a work such as this programmed by a regional orchestra, you attend feeling that the best intentions will prevail, whether the skill does or not. Never you mind this. Maestro Michael Hall and the Southwest Florida Symphony Orchestra hit a grand slam out of the park Saturday with it at the Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall in Fort Myers.

The massive opening Allegro first movement is an amazing musical structure, fortified by three major themes, and opens with a religious sense, heretofore unknown in his works. The grief-stricken mood prevails throughout the movement with a colorful orchestration contrasting the full orchestra with smaller chamber music ensembles.

The second movement is a savage depiction of coarse reality; something that the human experience must travel through in order to earn final redemption and peace. Intensity and musical substance prevail throughout the final two movements, bringing the work to a humanistic blazing finale.

The power, fury, virtuosity and tenderness were all there in spades. I can only compare this to one other breathtaking regional orchestra performance, that of the Naples Philharmonic conducted by Christopher Seaman, of Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" played almost a decade ago.

Hall's sense of dynamic color was readily apparent in the opening of the first movement. Balances are critical to the success of this work, and the entrance of the clarinet duet in the returning waltz section was mysterious, seductive - and totally cool. The second movement is short but entirely vigorous and frenzied. The orchestra was stretched to its limit in the chosen tempo, but the players fastened their seat belts and made the wild ride happen.

The final two movements are full of sardonic wit and musically colorful caricatures of human expression. Particular praise is due the solo flute, oboe, clarinet and French horn for splendid senses of phrasing and dynamics. Maestro Hall and his orchestra essayed a perfect accelerando into the final section, and ended in a blaze of glory, enhanced by the resonant acoustics of Barbara B. Mann Hall.

The program opened with the ever-popular Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, by Rachmaninoff. You know, the one that has "Full Moon and Empty Arms" as its grand finale theme and Eric Carmen's '70s hit "All by Myself" in its second section. The featured pianist was Gleb Ivanov, who won the New York Young Concert Artist's Award in 2005.

Ivanov took the ultra-lyric approach to this famous work. He gave the orchestra a merry chase in the third movement, but Maestro Hall paced him. I would have preferred a much more resonant and passionate performance. Ivanov was almost apologetic and shy in his approach. Perhaps it was a new piece for him?

In any event, hearing both the Cleveland Orchestra and Fort Myers' own orchestra within one week was a deep and thrilling experience. Chalk up a huge victory for the home team. The full house of listeners thought so as well.


William Noll is artistic director for the Classic Chamber Concerts, and, he admits, an enthusiastic "Shosty" fan.

William Noll is artistic director for the Classic Chamber Concerts, and, he admits, an enthusiastic "Shosty" fan.

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